One out of every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. It occurs when fatty deposits, such as cholesterol, cause buildup in the arteries that supply blood to limbs. This buildup, called plaque, narrows these arteries, reducing or blocking the flow of blood. This causes a decreased level of oxygen supply to muscles and other tissues that can be very damaging over time. PAD is most commonly found in the legs, but can also be present in arteries that supply blood to the head, arms, kidneys and stomach. Like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Angioplasty and Stenting

Interventional radiologists pioneered angioplasty and stenting, which was first performed to treat peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Using imaging for guidance, an interventional radiologist threads a catheter through the femoral artery in the groin to the blocked artery in the legs. A balloon is inflated to open the blood vessel where it is narrowed or blocked. In some cases this is then held open with a stent, a tiny metal cylinder. This is a minimally invasive treatment that does not require surgery, just a nick in the skin the size of a pencil tip.

Information provided by the Society of Interventional Radiology, © 2004, 2008