Medical Terminology in this article:

Atherosclerosis: Plaque builds up in the arteries.
Plaque: Fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue, and other substances in the blood.
Claudication: Claudication is pain, aching, or fatigue in the muscles of the buttocks, thigh, or calf that occurs with exertion and resolves with rest. Ischemia: A state in which blood flow (hence oxygen) is restricted or decreased in a specific area of the body.
Critical limb ischemia: Severe form of peripheral artery disease (PAD)
What is peripheral arterial disease? Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common vascular condition that affects arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to the body. PAD occurs in various forms and develops when arteries to your arms or legs narrow or become cloged. Similar to old water pipes that get obstructed with debris or dirt. This narrowing most often results from the hardening of your arteries or atherosclerosis, which leads to ischemia. In the lower extremities, ischemia can cause claudication in peripheral artery disease (PAD) or may cause critical limb ischemia (CLI) in severe cases.

Risk Factors for developing PAD?

• Age
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• Being overweight or obese
• Sedentary lifestyle
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• Family history of atherosclerosis or claudication

How do interventional radiologists treat peripheral arterial disease?

Lifestyle changes are one of the management options in PAD. If it is not enough to treat your PAD, the physician may recommend to visit a minimally invasive interventional radiology (IR) clinic for treatment. The IR doctor will make a small incision in your groin using X-rays as imaging guidance in most cases. After that passing a very thin catheter (thin plastic hollow tube) through your blood vessels to the blockage or narrowed artery. Depending on where the blockage is and how it looks, it may be treated in several ways as follows:


Thrombolysis is a treatment that delivers medication slowly, over a few hours, to a blood clot through a thin tube that is inserted next to or within the clot. You’ll be hospitalized during the treatment and will be watched by nurses and doctors in the intensive care unit. Often, the clots will dissolve but the artery will still be narrowed, and additional treatments may be required.


When a blood clot suddenly blocks blood flow, a treatment known as a thrombectomy will remove the clot from the body using various medical tools that can pull out or vaporize the clot.


Angioplasty uses inflatable devices called balloons to open up narrowed arteries. Various types of balloons are used in different situations, including balloons that stretch arteries open, metal-edged balloons that cut and break up calcium deposits, and drug-coated artery balloons that can prevent scarring and future narrowing of the. During angioplasty, the interventional radiologist guides a catheter with a tiny balloon tip through the blood vessels into the narrowed segment or blockage. The balloon is inflated to widen the artery, which restores blood flow.


Sometimes, following balloon angioplasty, the doctor will place a stent (a tiny mesh tube) in the artery to help keep it open. Those who receive stents will also need to be on clot-preventing medications to reduce the chance of clots forming inside