Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

PAD is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries or blood clots reduce blood flow to your limbs. When you develop PAD, your extremities, usually your legs, don’t receive sufficient blood flow. Hardening of the arteries, in addition to increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke, also increases your risk of PAD.

Many Canadians do not seek treatment for chronic pain in their legs, hips or feet and think it to be part of getting older. Clogged arteries decrease blood supply to the legs, which can cause pain when walking, and eventually could even lead to gangrene and amputation.


The most common symptom of PAD is called intermittent claudication, which is painful cramping in the leg or hip that occurs when walking or exercising and typically disappears when the person stops the activity. Other symptoms include:

  • Numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower legs and feet
  • Burning or aching pain in feet or toes when resting
  • Sore on leg or foot that won’t heal
  • Cold legs or feet
  • Color change in skin of legs or feet
  • Loss of hair on legs
  • Pain in the legs or feet that awakens you at night

Risk Factors

Although PAD can happen at any age, those at highest risk are:

  • Over age 50
  • Smokers
  • Diabetic
  • Overweight
  • Inactive (and do not exercise)
  • Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high lipid blood test
  • Have a family history of vascular disease, such as PAD, aneurysm, heart attack or stroke


The most common test for PAD is the ankle-brachial index (ABI). This is a painless exam that measures the ratio of blood pressure between the arms and feet. Based on your ABI test, your Doctor may refer you to VIRNA. We will work with your doctor to decide if further tests are needed, including CT or MRI to further map the blood flow to your legs.


Lifestyle changes

Often PAD can be successfully managed through lifestyle changes. Stopping smoking and a structured exercise program like walking are often all it takes to relieve symptoms and stop further progression of the disease.


Medications may be prescribed to control high blood pressure and help lower cholesterol. Some medications have been shown to help with pain-free walking in people with intermittent claudication. Other medications to prevent blood clots may also be prescribed.

Interventional Radiology Treatments for PAD

When more conservative treatments are not enough, our VIRNA Interventional Radiologists are able to look at all of your imaging and help you and your Doctor come up with a plan for possible treatment. These may include:


At one of our Partner Hospitals, your Interventional Radiologist is able to use imaging guidance to pass a small catheter through the femoral artery and into the narrowed or blocked area. This catheter carries a balloon which is inflated to open the vessel, after which the balloon is removed. All of this is done through a tiny nick in the skin and the patient goes home a few hours later.


In some instances, balloon angioplasty is not quite enough. In these cases, the Interventional Radiologist may inset a small metal cylinder, called a stent to help the vessel open back to its original size.

Talk to your doctor to find out if an Interventional Radiology treatment for PAD by VIRNA is the right option for you.