Medical Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease

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Peripheral arterial disease affects approximately 8–10 million people in the United States. Approximately one-third to one-half of these individuals are symptomatic. The risk factors that contribute to peripheral arterial disease are similar to those associated with other forms of atherosclerosis, including diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking, hypercholesterolemia, high blood pressure, and hyperhomocysteinemia. Of these, diabetes and cigarette smoking pose the greatest risk for developing peripheral arterial disease. The prognosis of patients with these risk factors is limited because of their greater risks for myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiovascular death. Cardiovascular mortality correlates inversely with the ankle/brachial index, and the risk of death is greatest in those with the most severe peripheral arterial disease. Treatment regimens to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with peripheral arterial disease should include risk factor modification and antiplatelet therapy. The cardinal symptoms of peripheral arterial disease include intermittent claudication and rest pain, with the latter being indicative of critical limb ischemia. Therapeutic strategies that focus on improving the patient’s quality of life, reducing the severity of claudication, and improving limb viability include supervised exercise training, pharmacotherapy, and revascularization. Two drugs—pentoxifylline and cilostazol—currently are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of patients with claudication. Meta-analyses have suggested that, compared with placebo, pentoxifylline improves maximal walking distance by approximately 20–25%. Cilostazol is a phosphodiesterase type 3 inhibitor. In clinical trials, cilostazol has consistently improved maximal walking distance as compared with placebo, with the range of improvement being approximately 40–60%. Drugs that are currently under investigation include propionyl-l-carnitine, vasodilator prostaglandins, l-arginine, and the angiogenic factors, vascular endothelial growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factors.

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