More timely diagnosis is needed for patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition that can lead to disability and is associated with an increased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and death. But the condition is frequently overlooked due to subtle physical findings and a lack of classic symptoms. To aid in diagnosis, new PAD guidelines were issued in December by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
PAD, as defined by the guidelines, encompasses “the vascular diseases caused primarily by atherosclerosis and thromboembolic pathophysiological processes that alter the normal structure and function of the aorta, its visceral arterial branches, and the arteries of the lower extremity.” Untreated, PAD, which affects more than 12 million people in the United States, can lead to amputation, aortic aneurysm rupture, severe hypertension, and kidney failure. A substantial number of patients also have claudication, which can at times be nearly disabling. Another important reason for physicians to test for PAD is that it frequently serves as a marker for widespread atherothrombotic disease. Not surprisingly, the major causes of death in PAD patients are myocardial infarction and stroke.
Mitka M. Group Launches Peripheral Arterial Disease Guidelines. JAMA. 2006;295(6):613-614. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.613