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Disease Information : PAD : Glossary

PAD : Glossary

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ABI: Ankle Brachial-Index measurement. A method for testing for peripheral arterial disease through the use of a Doppler probe and a blood pressure cuff on both the arms and ankles.

Abdominal Aorta: The portion of the largest artery in the body between the diaphragm and the bifurcation into the common iliac arteries (about the location of the belly button or navel.

Amputation: Surgical removal of a limb or portion of a limb. Above knee, below knee, or partial foot are all varieties.

Aneurysm: A ballooning or bulging of the wall of a vein or artery, usually due to a weakening in the wall or congenital abnormalities.

Angioplasty (balloon): A procedure that widens arteries narrowed by arterial disease. A catheter with a deflated balloon is threaded through the narrowed artery to the narrowed part and then inflated to break the plaque and expand the artery.

Angioplasty (laser): A procedure that opens arteries clogged or narrowed by arterial disease. A thin tube with a laser tip attached is inserted into the artery. The laser vaporizes the plaque to clear the artery. (This method has yet to be proven effective.)

Antiplatelet: Medication, including aspirin and newer agents used to prevent clumping together of platelets, one of the first things to occur in artery clotting.

Aorta: The largest artery in the body, originating at the left ventricle and serving as the primary trunk from which the entire arterial system proceeds.

Arterial insufficiency: An inadequate blood supply in the arterial system most often caused by a narrowing in the vessel proximal to the inadequately supplied area.

Arteriogram: An x-ray used to determine specific arterial blockages in the body. The procedure involves inserting a small catheter into the artery that injects dye.

Arteritis: Inflammation of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis: From the Greek words athero (gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness). The process within the arteries where deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium or fibrin are built up in the inner lining (called plaques).

Arteriosclerosis: A normal consequence of aging where the arterial walls gradually thicken and arterial fibers decline. The arteries become stiff. (see Atherosclerosis)

Artery: A pipeline (blood vessel) carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When diseased, the organ supplied may become damaged due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. (see ischemia)

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Blood pressure: The force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls.


Calcified vessels: When an artery becomes hardened from calcium deposits in the wall. Often seen in diabetes. Effects the ability to make accurate pressure measurements in the legs.

Catheter: A tiny flexible inserted in a blood vessel to inject dye, assist with the removal of a blood clot, or inject medication.

Collateral circulation: The slow development of smaller peripheral arteries to allow some blood flow around the narrowed/blocked area of an artery. This occurs as an adaptation when an artery is slowly blocked with plaque over time.

Critical Leg Ischemia: A severe obstruction of the arteries which seriously decreases blood flow to the extremities (hands, feet and legs) and has progressed to the point of severe pain and even skin ulcers or sores. Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) is often present in individuals with severe peripheral arterial disease (PAD).


Diabetes mellitus: A metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce insulin (type 1) or when the body does not make enough or cannot properly use insulin (type 2).

Doppler: A diagnostic tool that uses low intensity ultrasound to detect blood flow velocity in arteries or veins.

Duplex: A diagnostic tool that combines Doppler and ultrasound.


Endarterectomy: The removal of plaque from the inner wall of a diseased artery by surgery.

Exercise Therapy: Exercise therapy for intermittent claudication is an individualized exercise prescription (or plan) designed to restore health and prevent further disease. The prescription, which is written by a doctor or rehabilitation specialist such as a clinical exercise physiologist, physical therapist, or nurse. It takes into account your current medical condition and provides advice for what type of exercise to perform, how hard to exercise, how long, and how many times per week.


Femoral artery: The large artery in the leg which extends from hip to knee. Often the bypass grafts start at this point.

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Gangrene: Tissue death caused by poor blood flow. It is usually black with color, often with a foul odor.

Grafts: A surgical technique using man-made material or vein to re-route blood flow.


Homocysteine: An amino acid in the blood. Elevated plasma levels may lead to increased risks of PAD.

Hypertension: When the pressure in the arteries is consistently above the normal range. Also known as high blood pressure.

I, J, K

Insulin: A hormone produced by the pancreas essential for the body's use of sugars.

Intermittent Claudication: Symptoms that occur when the leg muscles do not receive the oxygen rich blood required during exercise, thus causing cramping in the hips, thighs or calves.

Interventional radiology: A medical specialty where doctors use imaging technologies to diagnose blockages in arteries and also treat them with balloons, stents, and catheter delivered medications.

Ischemia: An organ (heart, brain, kidneys, or foot, for example) that is not getting adequate blood flow and lacks vital oxygen and nutrients.

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Lipids: another term for fats that can be broken down into fatty acids.

Lipoproteins: Proteins that transport cholesterol and other fats to and from cells. LDL is the subtype most dangerous for peripheral arterial disease. HDL is beneficial in prevention.

M, N, O

Non-Invasive: Medical procedures or exams which do not involve needles, dye or x-ray to diagnose arterial diseases.

P, Q

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): A common disorder that occurs in the artery segments of the circulatory system (legs, pelvis, neck brain). The artery wall linings slowly become narrowed and rough clots formed due to built up cholesterol or plaque. It has major implications on a patient's life due to association with blockages in the heart and brain with potential for death from heart attack and stroke.

Plaque: The built up material on the inner lining of an artery made up of cholesterol and fatty substances.


Rest Pain: Constant pain (particularly at night) found in the toes or foot that is caused by poor blood flow.

Revascularization: Procedures to restore blood flow the artery.


Stents: Wire mesh tubes that are surgical placed within the artery (recently cleared through angioplasty) via a catheter threaded through the artery. It is opened to form a rigid support to hold the clogged artery open to potentially prevent recurrent narrowing.

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Toe Systolic Pressure Index: A diagnostic measurement taken to determine peripheral arterial disease. Normally used when the Doppler method is ineffective (due to artery calcium buildup), usually in patients with diabetes. This technique uses a special pneumatic cuff placed on the big toe.

Triglycerides: The chemical form in which most fats exist in foods.


Ultrasonic Duplex Scanning: The diagnostic test for PAD that produces images of arteries or veins on a screen via the use of ultrasound equipment. This test is used to locate blocked arteries or measure their size.

V, W, X, Y, Z

Vascular Medicine: A branch of medicine that deals primarily in medical treatment of vascular diseases. A rapidly expanding area of modern medicine.

Vascular Surgeon: A physician with a specialty in performing surgery to either remove the plaque from an artery or more commonly to bypass the area of obstruction with a graft. Also can be involved in the medical treatment of vascular disease.

Vessels: The tube like structures in the circulatory system that are responsible for circulating blood within the body. The three kinds of vessels are arteries, veins and lymphatics. Capillaries are the microscopic structures that connect arteries and veins at the tissues.

Veins: Blood vessels that carry the blood from the body back to the heart.

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Peripheral Arterial Disease section was last modified: December 21, 2010 - 06:12 pm

All of the medical information contained on VDF's Web site has been written by medical professionals and then peer-reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee who edits the material appropriately.