What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a blood circulation disorder that causes the blood vessels to narrow, block, or spasm. This can happen in your arteries or veins. PVD typically causes pain and fatigue, often in your legs.

PVD can be caused by atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries, or blood vessel spasms.

The vascular and interventional radiologists at MedStar Harbor work inside your arteries to improve, and in some cases, restore blood flow.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis affects millions of people and can lead to severe pain and decreased mobility. In atherosclerosis, the arteries become so narrow or blocked that blood flow and oxygen are restricted to tissues and organs. If left untreated, this can lead to organ damage or loss of fingers, toes, or limbs.

Patients with diseased arteries often experience pain when walking (claudication) and even when resting.

If undiagnosed and untreated, PVD can be serious and even life-threatening. Restricted blood flow related to PVD can be a warning sign of other forms of vascular disease. Complications of PVD include:

  • Tissue death, which can lead to limb amputation
  • Impotence
  • Pale skin
  • Pain at rest and with movement
  • Severe pain that restricts mobility
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Life-threatening infections of the bone and blood stream

In the most serious cases, the arteries bringing blood to the heart and brain can become clogged, leading to heart attack, stroke, or even death.

What are the Treatments for Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Treatment for peripheral artery disease aims to manage symptoms, such as leg pain, or stop the progression of atherosclerosis, reducing the risk of heart attack. Some patient may be able to achieve these goals with medication, others may require surgery or angioplasty.

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure intended to remove blockages in the arteries. In angioplasty, interventional radiologists will thread a small catheter through a blood vessel to the affected artery. Using x-ray guidance to identify areas of narrowing or occlusion within your arteries, the catheter is placed through a tiny hole in your groin.

Using special tools inside the artery, our physicians will remove areas of disease. For some patients, a stent may be placed to hold the artery open. The procedure is performed under sedation and patients can typically go home the same day.

For more information or to speak with an Interventional Radiology specialist, please call

410-350-3389