Lower Extremity Peripheral Artery Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment

Am Fam Physician. 2019 Mar 15;99(6):362-369.


Lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects 12% to 20% of Americans 60 years and older. The most significant risk factors for PAD are hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, and smoking; the presence of three or more factors confers a 10-fold increase in PAD risk. Intermittent claudication is the hallmark of atherosclerotic lower extremity PAD, but only about 10% of patients with PAD experience intermittent claudication. A variety of leg symptoms that differ from classic claudication affects 50% of patients, and 40% have no leg symptoms at all. Current guidelines recommend resting ankle-brachial index (ABI) testing for patients with history or examination findings suggesting PAD. Patients with symptoms of PAD but a normal resting ABI can be further evaluated with exercise ABI testing. Routine ABI screening for those not at increased risk of PAD is not recommended. Treatment of PAD includes lifestyle modifications-including smoking cessation and supervised exercise therapy-plus secondary prevention medications, including antiplatelet therapy, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, and statins. Surgical revascularization should be considered for patients with lifestyle-limiting claudication who have an inadequate response to the aforementioned therapies. Patients with acute or limb-threatening limb ischemia should be referred immediately to a vascular surgeon.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ankle Brachial Index
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Intermittent Claudication / diagnosis*
  • Intermittent Claudication / etiology
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease / mortality
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors