Introduction: Advances in endovascular interventions have expanded the options available for the invasive treatment of lower extremity peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Whether endovascular interventions substitute for conventional bypass surgery or are simply additive has not been investigated, and their effect on amputation rates is unknown.
Methods: We sought to analyze trends in lower extremity endovascular interventions (angioplasty and atherectomy), lower extremity bypass surgery, and major amputation (above and below-knee) in Medicare beneficiaries between 1996 and 2006. We used 100% samples of Medicare Part B claims to calculate annual procedure rates of lower extremity bypass surgery, endovascular interventions (angioplasty and atherectomy), and major amputation between 1996 and 2006. Using physician specialty identifiers, we also examined trends in the specialty performing the primary procedure.
Results: Between 1996 and 2006, the rate of major lower extremity amputation declined significantly (263 to 188 per 100,000; risk ratio [RR] 0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.6-0.8). Endovascular interventions increased more than threefold (from 138 to 455 per 100,000; RR = 3.30; 95% CI: 2.9-3.7) while bypass surgery decreased by 42% (219 to 126 per 100,000; RR = 0.58; 95% CI: 0.5-0.7). The increase in endovascular interventions consisted both of a growth in peripheral angioplasty (from 135 to 337 procedures per 100,000; RR = 2.49; 95% CI: 2.2-2.8) and the advent of percutaneous atherectomy (from 3 to 118 per 100,000; RR = 43.12; 95% CI: 34.8-52.0). While radiologists performed the majority of endovascular interventions in 1996, more than 80% were performed by cardiologists and vascular surgeons by 2006. Overall, the total number of all lower extremity vascular procedures almost doubled over the decade (from 357 to 581 per 100,000; RR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.5-1.8).
Conclusion: Endovascular interventions are now performed much more commonly than bypass surgery in the treatment of lower extremity PAD. These changes far exceed simple substitution, as more than three additional endovascular interventions were performed for every one procedure declined in lower extremity bypass surgery. During this same time period, major lower extremity amputation rates have fallen by more than 25%. However, further study is needed before any causal link can be established between lower extremity vascular procedures and improved rates of limb salvage in patients with PAD.