Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is a common circulation (hardening of the arteries) problem usually found in the over 60’s. The arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged reducing the flow of blood, sometimes causing pain, but often causing no symptoms at all. Atherosclerosis, the most common cause of PVD, is a gradual process in which cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called "plaque" that clogs the blood vessels. PVD may also be caused by blood clots that lodge in the arteries and restrict blood flow. Left untreated, PVD may lead to pain, nonhealing ulcers and eventually limb amputation in some patients.

Because the blood flow channel narrows from the build-up of plaque, preventing blood from passing through as needed, oxygen and other nutrients are restricted from getting to normal tissue. Many of the risk factors-high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes-may also damage the blood vessel wall, making the blood vessel prone to diffuse plaque deposits.

PVD Symptoms

The most common symptom of PVD is called claudication, which is leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the person stops the activity.

  • Other symptoms of PVD include: numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, coldness in the lower legs and feet, and ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don't heal.

Many people simply live with their pain, assuming it is a normal part of aging, rather than reporting it to their doctor. Most patients express a strong preference for endoluminal intervention.


PVD can happen to anyone, regardless of age, but it is most common in men and women over age 50.

  • PVD affects 12-20 percent of Australians age 65 and older.

PVD Treatments


Often PVD can be treated with lifestyle changes. Smoking cessation and a structured exercise program are often all that is needed to alleviate symptoms and may help to slow the further progression of the disease.

Angioplasty and stenting

Vascular (endovascular) Intervention uses the process of angioplasty and stenting, which was first performed to treat peripheral arterial disease. Using real-time X-ray imaging for guidance, Dr Robertson make a small nick in the skin and threads a catheter through the femoral artery in the groin to the blocked artery in the legs. A balloon is then 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 or internal scaffold. This is a minimally invasive treatment that does not require surgery.