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Vascular Center New Britain General campus:
(860) 224-5193

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Peripheral Vascular Disease

PVD

As we age, fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances build up in our arteries as plaque. Plaque can narrow and stiffen the arteries — called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

The plaque limits blood flow, which can cause heart disease or other serious problems throughout the body. Smokers and people with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are more prone to atherosclerosis.

Peripheral vascular disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries to the legs, cutting off blood supply. Many people with PVD have no symptoms or very subtle symptoms they might discover while visiting their doctor for another problem. More advanced PVD can cause pain, fatigue and difficulty walking even short distances.

Treatments

Many PVD patients can be treated with risk factor modification: quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercising and controlling diabetes and blood pressure. Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications, as well as cholesterol-lowering medications can also help.

Angioplasty and stenting

This procedure breaks up plaque in the arteries and uses a wire mesh device called a stent to keep the artery open.

The procedure:

You will be given local anesthesia. The doctor will insert a catheter into your groin area and guide it to the blockage using fluoroscopy(a moving X-ray image projected onto a monitor).

During the angioplasty, a tiny balloon is inserted through the catheter into the artery and expanded one or more times to break up the plaque and open the artery. To keep the artery open, the doctor will then insert the stent through the catheter. Once in place at the former blockage site, the stent can be expanded to hold the artery open.

Bypass

The traditional surgical treatment for blocked arteries in the legs and other areas of the body. Surgeons create a new artery — or "graft" — for blood to flow through and attach it above and below the blocked area of the artery, bypassing the blockage. The graft may be artificial or created from a piece of a patient's vein.

The procedure:

You may receive general or regional anesthesia, depending on various factors. If your graft will be created from one of your veins, the surgeon will first remove the portion of the vein. Surgeons usually use the great saphenous vein, which runs from your foot to your groin.

The surgeon then makes an incision to access the blocked artery, then stitches the graft into place on the artery - with one end above and one below the blockage. After ensuring there is good blood flow through the graft (with no leaks), the surgeon will close the incision in your skin.