Most artery narrowings are caused by artherosclerosis or plaque build up in the inner lining of the artery wall. As more plaque forms the opening of the artery becomes smaller. This narrowing can restrict the amount of blood flow going through the artery. Every artery in the body is vulnerable to plaque build up. Risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis include: smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Aneurysms are caused be a weakening of the wall of an artery. Over time the artery balloons and grows as the wall becomes thinner. The most common aneurysm site is in the Abdominal Aorta, but they can also occur in the arteries to the legs and brain. An aneurysm grows over time and its size can be measured by an ultrasound or CAT scan. When an aneurysm reaches 5-6 cms in size it should be fixed. Treatment options include a minimally invasive approach using a stent graft or by conventional open surgical procedure.
PAD can cause pain in the calves or entire leg with walking. This is referred to as claudication and is caused by narrowing that develops in the arteries to the legs which decreases blood flow. Blood flow can be assessed by physical exam and by ultrasound. An angiogram of the arteries to the legs can diagnose the problem and stents or angioplasty can be used to treat a narrowing. Sometime surgery is necessary to improve circulation to the legs.
The carotid arteries carry blood flow to the brain. If a blockage develops a stroke can occur. This could be a mini-stroke that lasts for a few minutes or it could be a large stroke that takes a long time to recover from. Some strokes cause permanent damage to the brain. Strokes can affect speech, arm or leg movement and vision. If the carotid artery is significantly narrowed surgery is recommended to clean out the blockage in order to prevent stroke
Dialysis can take the place of failing kidney function by clearing toxins from the blood stream using a highly specialized filtering machine. There are many causes of kidney failure: diabetes, high blood pressure, infection and ischemia. In some cases the need for dialysis is permanent. If dialysis is needed long-term a fistula or graft can be created in the arm. This requires a surgery where an artery is connected to a vein directly or by a synthetic graft tunneled under the skin.