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Peripheral arterial occlusive disease

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease is caused by atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque inside arteries. Long-standing high blood pressure, diabetes, high levels of cholesterol and smoking are common causes of plaque buildup.

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease occurs when plaque buildup inside a peripheral artery, those in the arms or legs, causes the opening inside the artery to shrink. This reduces blood flow to the surrounding area. The decrease is most noticeable during exercise, when the extremities require increased blood flow.

The disease is characterized by pain in the extremities during exercise that quickly disappears after a short period of rest. In more severe cases, the extremity may hurt all the time or even have open sores that are not healing. Our surgeons specialize in the diagnosis, prevention and management of these blockages, whether through medications, minimally invasive surgery or major open surgery.

The UF division of vascular surgery has a national reputation in treating such blockages with minimally invasive techniques (angioplasty) or open surgical bypasses. Services we offer to treat peripheral arterial occlusive disease include:


Surgeons perform angioplasty by inserting a catheter with a balloon on the end into the appropriate artery. The cylindrical-shaped balloon is inflated inside the artery at the point where plaque has narrowed the artery opening and slowed blood flow. After a few minutes, the balloon is deflated and the plaque inside the artery is left flattened. As a result, the artery opening is enlarged and blood flows more freely. On occasion, it is necessary to place a small cylinder of metal, called a stent, into an artery to keep it open. Additionally, some patients benefit from attempts to remove the plaque with special catheters.

Open bypass

In a bypass operation, surgeons use a portion of a vein or artery from another part of the body to create a detour around a section of artery which has a plaque blockage inside it. The new portion of vein is grafted onto the partially-blocked vein or artery and blood flows through the new portion. These procedures are more invasive than angioplasty, but may be more durable.

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