Optimal medical management of peripheral arterial disease.
Patients with peripheral vascular disease are less likely to receive optimal medical management than patients with coronary artery disease. However, early medical treatment is critical because it is profoundly beneficial and the benefits are maximized. Even in patients with advanced disease requiring invasive intervention, medical management has been proven to improve outcome, prolong the success of the intervention, improve functional capacity, and prolong life. The vascular surgeon should be knowledgeable enough to initiate basic medical therapy and to define for their patients the goals that need to be met to optimize their medical management. The vascular surgeon should be instrumental in assuring that the peripheral vascular patient receives medical therapy of the same standard as the patient with coronary disease. The major modifiable risk factors in the vascular patient are: smoking, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes. In addition, the use of beta blockers for patients with coronary disease and antiplatelet therapy as well as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are recommended for all patients with peripheral vascular disease. Statins have favorable effects on multiple interrelated aspects of vascular biology important in atherosclerosis. In particular they have beneficial effects on inflammation, plaque stabilization, endothelial dysfunction, and thrombosis. Statins have also been shown to be beneficial in acute vascular events. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors have been shown to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with peripheral arterial disease regardless of the presence or absence of hypertension. A number of the pleiotropic effects of statins are shared by ACE inhibitors. In summary, patients with known vascular disease should be treated aggressively with a combination of a HMG CoA reductase inhibitor, an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, an antiplatelet agent and a beta blocker if there is a history of coronary disease. They should also receive tight control of their blood pressure and blood sugar. Smokers should be encouraged to stop smoking and should be provided with pharmaceutical and emotional support by their physicians. All of these patients should have their body mass index as close to normal as possible and be on a therapeutic lifestyle diet. Regular aerobic exercise is also indicated. Patients with symptomatic claudication should be considered for cilostazol. Patients with multiple risk factors for vascular disease, but who do not have documented disease should also be on statin therapy. As more studies define the linear relationship between lower LDL-C levels and lowered risk of vascular events, indicating that the lower the LDL-C level, the lower the risk, experts are advocating more aggressive lipid-lowering therapy. In patients with peripheral arterial disease, some experts now advocate lowering the goal of LDL therapy to 70 mg/dL.
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