Limb ischemia, sometimes referred to as Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI), is caused by reduced blood flow to the feet and lower limbs. The symptoms are mainly felt in the feet and can consists of pain, numbness, lack of pulse and dry skin. In more extreme cases symptoms can include blackening and discolouration of the toes, open sores or ulcers.
As with many vascular conditions limb ischemia is caused by the hardening and narrowing of arteries as a result of the build up of fatty deposits. Often this is a result of lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Limb ischemia is often described as a chronic condition. It can cause severe pain and if left untreated can result in amputation or partial amputation of toes or lower limbs. There is also a significant risk of infection which can lead to a range of complications.
Because of the severity of the problems which can result from limb ischemia it is important to get treatment as quickly as possible. Where the arterial blockage is caused by a blood clot it can be broken down with medication or with ultrasound. In many cases though surgery will be required to get rid of the problem.
Surgery for limb ischemia
Where surgery is necessary a number of approaches can be taken. Most of the surgical techniques for treating limb ischemia can be done through keyhole surgery without the need for a prolonged stay in hospital.
As the main cause of limb ischemia is blocked or constricted arteries the treatment approach can be to bypass the affected area. Otherwise the options are:
Angioplasty – this procedure is used to treat clogged arteries in several parts of the body. It involves inserting a balloon into the artery which is inflated to expand the blocked area.
Stents – often used in conjunction with angioplasty a stent is a small tube which is inserted into the artery in order to keep it open and inflated.
Atherectomy – whereas angioplasty and stents push arterial plaque to one side atherectomy removes it. This can be done from inside the artery either by cutting away the plaque with small cutting blades or by burning it away with a laser.
Book a consultation
At London Vascular Clinics we can give you a one on one consultation. We can discuss the best treatment for you including suitable medications and whether you may be suitable for surgery.