Does surgery relieve intermittent claudication?

Created date

November 7th, 2016
man walking pain-free

Researchers from University of Washington have found that surgery may trump medical management of intermittent claudication, a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

About eight million Americans are affected by PAD, and most of them have intermittent claudication, which is pain in the calf or foot while walking and, in severe cases, while at rest. 

Medical management of PAD involves medications, establishing a walking program, and smoking cessation counseling (if pertinent). A common surgical option is revascularization, in which circulation is improved by procedures such as bypass grafting and angioplasty.

One study, two groups

The researchers enrolled 323 adults with PAD for the study, some of whom had medical management of their disease, and some who underwent revascularization. At 12 months, the researchers compared walking speed, distance, stair climbing, pain, and the study participants’ perception of their overall quality of life. They found that the surgery patients had significantly better walking function, fewer PAD symptoms, and better health-related quality of life compared to the medically managed patients. 

The study authors conclude that these results suggest revascularization for people with moderate to severe intermittent claudication is a reasonable alternative to medical management. More research is needed into long-term outcomes for PAD interventions.