Understanding Critical Limb Ischemia
Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is caused by a major blockage in the arteries that reduces blood to the lower legs. It’s a very serious form of peripheral artery disease (PAD) – a hardening and narrowing of the arteries – that can lead to severe pain in the feet or toes, tissue damage, and skin ulcers. If left untreated, amputation of the affected limb may become necessary. It is a chronic issue that will not resolve on its own.
Risk factors for CLI include age (men over 60 and women after menopause), diabetes, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or blood pressure, and a family history of vascular disease. Unfortunately, CLI is often undiagnosed until it’s too late, making amputation necessary.
Luckily, there are advancing methods in place to minimize the occurrence of CLI-related limb amputations. Patient-centered interventional suites (or critical limb centers) are one option for ongoing vascular care. These suites allow physicians to perform peripheral vascular interventions in an outpatient facility and provide ongoing education, awareness, and care to patients and providers.
What to Expect
Critical limb centers use an accelerated triage-to-therapy approach, during which patients and their families work with highly trained vascular nurse practitioners to maximize overall care. These specialists will collect your health history, address risk factors, and perform diagnostic tests. Advanced endovascular techniques and surgical therapy for limb preservation can help patients with advanced stages of CLI reduce the need for amputation.
Benefits to Patients
The patient-focused approach to vascular care provided by critical limb centers is highly beneficial. Not only does it promote awareness and education for an underdiagnosed condition, but it also makes the experience highly personal. Working with specialists dedicated to vascular care means that the issue is addressed at a micro level, resulting in less amputations and a focus on prolonged amputation-free living.