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Critical Limb Ischemia

Lone Star Heart and Vascular Center

Cardiovascular Disease Specialists & Interventional Cardiologists located in North Houston, Tomball, TX

Critical limb ischemia is a serious complication of peripheral artery disease that affects 12% of adults in America. Medical care from Waqar Khan, MD, MPH, FACC, FSCAI, Alexander Trujillo, MD, and Steven Napierkowski, MD, at Lone Star Heart and Vascular Center can reverse the underlying problem and prevent the worst possible scenario, amputation. But you need to seek treatment as soon as you notice symptoms to stop the condition from getting progressively worse. Call the office in Tomball, Texas, or use the online booking feature to schedule an appointment today.

Critical Limb Ischemia Q & A

What is critical limb ischemia?

Limb ischemia refers to the loss of blood in an area of your arm or leg, a serious condition that’s caused by advanced peripheral artery disease (PAD).

PAD develops when cholesterol attaches to a damaged area on an artery wall. Over time, more cholesterol and other substances build up, causing plaque that blocks blood flow.

As the plaque gets larger, it completely stops blood flow through the artery. That’s when you have critical limb ischemia. Though it can affect your arms, critical limb ischemia most often develops in your legs.

What symptoms develop due to critical limb ischemia?

In the early stage of PAD, most people notice leg pain and cramping in their hip, thigh, or calf when they walk or climb stairs. As PAD progresses, you start to experience:

  • Severe pain or numbness in your leg and foot when resting
  • Lower temperature in your leg or foot compared to the rest of your body
  • Slow-healing ulcers in your lower leg, foot, or toes
  • Shiny, smooth skin on your leg
  • Loss of leg hair or slow hair growth
  • Thickened and discolored skin in your lower leg or foot
  • Thickened toenails

When blood flow stops, the tissues start to die, and you develop gangrene.

How is critical limb ischemia treated?

Your provider at Lone Star Heart and Vascular Center may prescribe medications to reduce your pain and treat underlying health conditions. However, the first line of treatment is a minimally invasive endovascular procedure to restore blood flow.

Your provider performs the following endovascular procedures using a small incision to access a blood vessel and then guides a narrow catheter through the vessels to the plaque. 

Angioplasty and stenting

Once the catheter reaches the plaque, your provider deploys a balloon that pushes the plaque against the artery wall, immediately restoring blood flow. Then they implant a mesh stent. After the balloon is deflated and removed, the stent stays implanted in the artery, helping to keep the blood vessel open.

Laser or directional atherectomy

If the plaque is too hard for balloon angioplasty, your provider may perform an atherectomy. A laser atherectomy uses heat to vaporize the plaque, while a directional atherectomy uses a small cutting device to shave away the blockage.

Arterial surgery

Some patients may need surgery to scrape out the plaque or to implant a graft to bypass the plaque.

At the earliest sign of PAD or critical limb ischemia, call Lone Star Heart and Vascular Center, or book an appointment online.