Intermittent claudication is the medical term for leg pain which comes on when walking as a consequence of peripheral arterial disease.
The arteries supplying blood to the legs can narrow down and sometimes become blocked due to a process called atherosclerosis. The causes of peripheral arterial disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. When the leg muscles in the lower limbs require extra blood and oxygen during exercise, the arteries are not able to supply this extra demand and the symptoms of aching pain develop.
By stopping walking the leg muscles require less blood and oxygen and the pain eases and disappears until you start to walk again. Pain may affect the calves, thighs or buttocks. As leg pain may also occur due to problems with the nerves or spine, a careful clinical assessment and detailed vascular scans will be required to make sure that peripheral arterial disease is the real cause.
At The London Aortic Centre, we will tailor your treatment depending on the severity of the walking pain, and the site and extent of the narrowing and blockages in the arteries. When the aorta and its branches to the legs (the iliac arteries) are narrowed or blocked, and the walking pains are severely affecting your quality of life, then the blood supply can be improved either by ‘open surgery’ or key-hole (endovascular) surgery.
Our preferred, less invasive, method for treating the narrowed or blocked aorta and iliac arteries is to use stent-grafts (a metal scaffold tube covered with synthetic fabric material) which are inserted through the groins under x-ray guidance. The stent-graft is positioned accurately to extend above and below the diseased artery and then expanded to open up the artery and significantly improve the blood flow. The risk of death and complications during and after operation is lower for endovascular repair.