Glossary of PAD Terms


We understand that learning about a new condition can be confusing. Here is a glossary of PAD terms often used when talking about peripheral artery disease. If you encounter a term you don’t know, please ask your provider to explain or consult these resources for more info.

Angiogram – A test that uses x-rays and dye to help your provider find narrowed or blocked areas in one or more of the arteries that supply blood to your legs.

Angioplasty A procedure where a small balloon is inflated inside the artery to stretch blockages open. It requires a very small insertion site into the artery with no visible stitches.

Ankle-Brachial IndexThis non-invasive test using a blood pressure cuff is a way to check for peripheral artery disease. The ankle-brachial index (ABI) compares the blood pressure measured in your ankles with the blood pressure in your arms to determine the possibility of blocked arteries in your legs.

Antiplatelets – A type of medication that prevents blood cells called platelets from clumping together to form a clot. Some common antiplatelets are aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix). 

Artery – Blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.

Atherosclerosis – The buildup of plaque (fats, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in your blood) on the artery walls. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, causing reduced blood flow.

Bypass Surgery – A surgical procedure requiring an incision where a vein is used from another part of the body and is grafted onto a new area to reroute blood flow around the area of blockage. The graft may be from a patient’s own vein or a man-made, synthetic vein. Requires 4-7 days in the hospital.

Claudication – Pain, cramping, numbness, or heaviness in the legs when muscles do not get enough blood and oxygen. This leg pain may occur in the calves and/or buttocks during walking or exercise and usually disappears after a brief period of rest.

Chronic Disease – A condition that will likely have to be managed for the rest of your life. It is not something that can be cured or just goes away, but you can take measures to improve the condition and reduce your risk of it causing symptoms.

Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) – A severe blockage of the arteries in the legs, which reduces blood flow. This is the most serious form of peripheral artery disease (PAD) and can lead to amputation.

Endarterectomy – A surgical procedure to restore blood flow to the leg used in places like the groin artery where other procedures may not work. A small incision is made in the groin area and the plaque is cleaned out of the blood vessel. Requires 1-2 days in the hospital.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) – The inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity often due to neuropathy, lack of blood flow or diabetes.

Gangrene – Localized death of tissue and skin most often caused by lack of blood flow and  serious bacterial infection. Typically starts in toes and feet, and can lead to amputation.

Graft – A synthetic tube that is used to re-route blood flow around a blockage in a vein or artery; also called a vascular graft or vein graft.

Healthy Foot Care – Taking steps to keep your feet healthy include washing and drying feet every day, inspecting your feet for sore spots, keeping toenails trimmed straight across, and having your provider perform a complete foot examine annually, or more often with injury.

Neuropathy – Nerve damage from various causes, often due to diabetes. Symptoms include tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in your feet and hands. It is more common in those who have had diabetes for a number of years but can be prevented or delayed by keeping blood glucose levels on target.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – A form of cardiovascular disease that leads to a narrowing of the peripheral arteries and reduces blood flow, most commonly in the legs. It is caused by a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries. (Also called peripheral arterial disease or peripheral vascular disease)

Revascularization – Improving the blood flow to the legs; relieving the blockages in the arteries through a medical procedure such as bypass surgery, balloon or stents.

Shared Decision Making – A process of making decisions about medical treatment where patients work with providers to weigh risks and benefits. It provides you with the freedom, information and tools to engage in treatment decisions and to discover which treatment options work best for your preferences and values.

Skin Ulcers – A deep open sore or break in the skin, usually on the feet or lower extremities. Poor blood flow can make ulcers slow to heal.

Stent – A tiny wire mesh tube used to prop open an artery and left inside the body. Stents help keep arteries open to prevent tissue damage from reduced blood flow.

Statins – A type of medication prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vein – Blood vessels that carry blood low in oxygen from the body back to the heart for reoxygenation.

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