Vascular blockages in the legs

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 17th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

People with clogged arteries near the heart are at high risk for heart attack and stroke. The same goes for people with clogged blood vessels in the leg, because they’re also likely to have clogged coronary arteries. Yet a new study finds that doctors often fail to give heart-protecting drugs to people with severe leg blood vessel blockages.

Michigan researchers say this lack of preventive care puts these patients at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.

National guidelines already recommend that physicians treat vascular blockages in the legs and abdomen with the same aggressive medical treatment they use to treat coronary artery disease. These new study findings call for stepped-up efforts to improve how doctors and patients deal with body-wide problems of arterial clogging.

The study results were presented recently at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions. The researchers studied data from more than five-hundred-and-fifty patients who underwent procedures to reopen clogged blood vessels in their legs and abdomens, a condition called peripheral artery disease. The treatment to correct these blockages is nearly identical to angioplasty and stenting procedures performed in narrowed heart arteries.

Patients who also had a history of heart problems were more likely to receive drugs to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, compared with those with no heart problems.

Most patients with leg and abdominal artery blockages die from heart attacks, heart failure or strokes. Experts agree it’s essential to help them get screened and receive treatment that’s in line with national guidelines.