Current therapy of peripheral obstructive arterial disease. The non- surgical approach.


De Felice M, Gallo P, Masotti G






In recent years double-blind trials have proved the effectiveness of nonsurgical therapy in the treatment of peripheral obstructive arterial disease (POAD). Among the non-pharmacologic measures taken, walking distance was increased by 40% in subjects who stopped smoking and by more than 100% in those who undertook physical exercise. Drug treatment reduces the atherosclerotic process and brings about an improvement in the symptoms of the disease. In subjects given hypolipidemic treatment the progression of the disease was reduced by two thirds. Two separate studies suggest that antiplatelet drugs, taken over a period of two to four years, significantly slow the progression of atherosclerosis in lower extremity arteries. In the treatment of claudication, two vasodilating drugs, naftidrofuryl and buflomedil, have shown a significant improvement in painfree walking distance and/or total walking distance, compared with treatment with placebo. Another effective approach is in the treatment of blood rheology through drugs such as pentoxifylline or by hemodilution. Double-blind trials with pentoxifylline demonstrated an average increase of 66% in maximum walking distance as compared with 22% with placebo. The effectiveness of hemodilution was demonstrated by two controlled trials, during which the reduction of the hematocrit to values of 40-42 for periods of four to six weeks increased both walking distance and resting blood flow. When introduced intraarterially in low doses in the vicinity of the occluding thrombus, thrombolytic agents have been found to be helpful in the treatment of acute and chronic POAD. This therapy should, however, be regarded as a substitute for surgical treatment only in high-risk patients. Further, after having produced the lysis of thrombi, the treatment permits the underlying parietal lesions to be accurately identified; at this point the appropriate therapy can be decided upon, either an operative procedure or a balloon dilation. In conclusion the many controlled clinical trials carried out over the past few years have clearly demonstrated that conservative treatment can alleviate clinical signs and symptoms in patients with claudication and pain at rest.