Peripheral Artery Disease

Cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons, interventional radiologists and other specialists work together to provide the most effective treatments — many of them developed at UCSF — for peripheral artery disease, or PAD.

Your treatment will depend on the severity of your PAD. Many patients can be managed with non-invasive therapies such as lifestyle changes, medication, or both. If your condition does not respond to these approaches, surgery may be necessary. In the most advanced cases, limb amputation may be required.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Diabetes control
  • Blood pressure management
  • Physical activity
  • Diet low in saturated fats
  • Cholesterol medication


  • Medications to prevent blood clots, called antiplatelet therapy, such as aspirin or clopidigrel
  • Medications to lower your cholesterol, called statins, such as simvastatin, atorvastatin or pravastatin
  • Medications that may help you walk, such as cilostazol or pentoxifylline
  • Medications to treat your high blood pressure, called ACE inhibitors


If your condition worsens or does not improve with lifestyle changes and medications, bypass surgery, endarterectomy or endovascular intervention may be necessary. The type of procedure recommended will depend on the size and location of your blockage.

Bypass surgery creates a detour, or bypass, around the blocked artery so that blood can flow normally. To create this bypass, your vascular surgeon uses a graft, which can be made from part of one of your veins or from a made-made synthetic tube. This bypass is surgically attached to replace the artery that is blocked, creating a new path for blood to flow to your leg tissues.

Endarterectomy is surgical removal of plaque from the blocked artery. During the procedure, your vascular surgeon will make an incision in your artery to remove the plaque in the artery's inner lining, restoring normal blood flow. The effectiveness of endarterectomy depends on the location and severity of your blockage. It may be performed with other procedures, such as bypass surgery.

Endovascular therapies are minimally invasive non-surgical techniques that open or widen arteries that have become narrowed or blocked. In a procedure called balloon angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into a leg or arm artery and fed into the blocked peripheral artery. A balloon, connected to the catheter, is expanded to open the artery. Surgeons may then place a wire mesh tube, called a stent, at the area of blockage to keep the artery open.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart & Vascular Center

Vascular & Endovascular Surgery
400 Parnassus Ave., Suite 501
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2357
Fax: (415) 353-2669
Appointment information

Vascular Laboratories at Parnassus
505 Parnassus Ave., Eighth Floor, Room M-830A
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-1286
Fax: (415) 353-8706
Appointment information

Limb Preservation Center
400 Parnassus Ave., Room A-501
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2357
Fax: (415) 353-2669
Appointment information

Key Treatments