Claudication is a pain in the extremities caused by a lack of blood flow. This is often first noticed during exercise. Claudication is most common in smokers or people with long-standing hypertension and/or diabetes.

How do we diagnose claudication?

Vascular Ultrasound

Vascular ultrasound is one of the first studies that can be done for leg pain. It shows the flow of blood in the vessels and can help us find the problem areas that may need treatment. It can also be used to determine that blood flow is not the cause of extremity pain.

CT Angiography (CTA)

CTA is one of the most accurate ways to see blood vessels. It can show a hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which may narrow or block the vessel. This is the best test for doctors to plan what sort of treatment may be needed to improve blood flow.

MR Angiography (MRA)

MRA is used less often than CTA and is usually only used when patients have a severe allergy to CT contrast or there is a need to limit radiation exposure.  MRA is a very good test but is longer and more expensive than CTA.  Generally, CTA is preferred.

How do we treat claudication?

Claudication can be prevented by good control of underlying diseases such as diabetes and elevated cholesterol.  Smoking is also a very common cause of claudication.  Once the tests determine the cause limiting blood flow to the lower extremities those areas can be treated with a number of methods which increase blood flow.  A stent can be placed over the diseased segment of artery, the disease in the artery can be dissolved with medications or removed with special devices, and finally a bypass graft can be used to shunt blood flow around the abnormal segment of artery.