Update on the pathophysiology and medical treatment of peripheral artery disease

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2022 Jul;19(7):456-474. doi: 10.1038/s41569-021-00663-9. Epub 2022 Jan 7.


Approximately 6% of adults worldwide have atherosclerosis and thrombosis of the lower limb arteries (peripheral artery disease (PAD)) and the prevalence is rising. PAD causes leg pain, impaired health-related quality of life, immobility, tissue loss and a high risk of major adverse events, including myocardial infarction, stroke, revascularization, amputation and death. In this Review, I describe the pathophysiology, presentation, outcome, preclinical research and medical management of PAD. Established treatments for PAD include antithrombotic drugs, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, and medications to treat dyslipidaemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that these treatments reduce the risk of major adverse events. The drug cilostazol, exercise therapy and revascularization are the current treatment options for the limb symptoms of PAD, but each has limitations. Novel therapies to promote collateral and new capillary growth and treat PAD-related myopathy are under investigation. Methods to improve the implementation of evidence-based medical management, novel drug therapies and rehabilitation programmes for PAD-related pain, functional impairment and ischaemic foot disease are important areas for future research.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / diagnosis
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / therapy
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors* / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Aspirin