Claudication is a condition characterized by pain and/or cramps in the lower leg muscles while walking and is relieved during rest. This type of pain that comes and goes is referred to as intermittent claudication. The most common cause of intermittent claudication is peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition characterised by narrowed or blocked blood vessels supplying the limbs. When walking and exercising, the calf muscles need more oxygen to function, but the reduced blood flow does not carry enough oxygen. The pain may be felt as a sharp, dull, burning, aching or throbbing feeling that may lead to limping. When you present to our clinic with these symptoms, your doctor will diagnose claudication with imaging tests (ultrasound, CT and MRA scans), and by measuring and comparing blood pressures in the leg and arm (ankle-arm index), and in different parts of the leg (segmental blood pressure).
To treat intermittent claudication, your doctor prescribes medications to dilate blood vessels and decrease viscosity (thickness) of blood to increase the flow of blood. You may also be asked to wear compression stockings. Surgery may be necessary if you do not respond to conservative treatment. Angioplasty is a surgical procedure that widens damaged arteries by inflating a small balloon attached to the tip of a thin tube (catheter) that is inserted at the groin and passed through the blocked artery. Once the artery is expanded, a stent (wire mesh tube) is placed within the artery to hold the artery open. Your surgeon may perform a bypass surgery, where a graft (healthy blood vessel removed from another part of the body) is attached to re-route blood away from the block.