If you experience leg pain or cramp when walking, foot pain at rest, or if you have leg/foot ulcer the doctor may send you to the vascular lab for us to examine the blood flow to your legs. These symptoms can be caused by blockages or narrowing of the arteries, which can prevent the muscles and tissues in your legs and feet from getting the oxygen they need to work properly, as the oxygen is carried by the blood.
Why do arteries become narrowed or blocked?
We will start by doing a basic examination of the blood flow in you legs, in which we will listen to the pulses located at the groin, behind the knees and in the feet with a small ultrasound probe shaped like a pencil, and a small amount of cool gel.
Your blood pressure will then be taken both on your arm, and then around the ankles, and maybe your toes if needed.
We may ask you to perform an exercise test if you are able to do so, either a walk on a treadmill or calf raises, to help us identify any blood flow abnormalities worsened by exercise.
This test provides a good indication of the presence and extent of any blockage/ narrowing in the blood vessels.
If necessary, a further ultrasound test will then be performed to visualise and locate any specific narrowing or blockage in the arteries in more detail.
What happens if there is a narrowing or blockage of my arteries?
If your test shows there is a narrowing or blockage present, the doctors may require you to have an angiogram, which is a further imaging assessment performed in the X-ray department, which involves some contrast dye and X-ray pictures of your arteries being taken. If there is a suitable significant narrowing of the artery, a Vascular Radiologist can treat it by performing an angioplasty, which involves a balloon being inflated to push the narrowing open and increase the blood flow down the leg. If the artery is completely blocked, the Vascular Consultant may suggest a bypass operation, to allow blood to flow effectively around the blocked region and into the vessels below it.