Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery
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Questions every patient should ask their doctor
prior to signing a consent for vascular intervention.

Sponsored by the SCVS Ad Hoc Committee on Patient Advocacy.


  1. Does my medical history raise my risk for PAD?

    Since peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the way that atherosclerosis, or ‘hardening of the arteries’ affects the arteries outside your heart, this is really a disease that affects your whole body. So your overall medical history (all the conditions you or your parents or your children) have had may impact the effect of this on you, as well as your risks for having PAD treated.

  2. What about my blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes?

    These all affect the development of atherosclerosis or ‘hardening of the arteries.’ These conditions are complex and require discussion with your doctor.

  3. Should I go for screening test? And which one?

    There are several venues for ‘screening tests’ for vascular disease. Screening tests are meant to determine if you have any disease, and are not precise about the extent of disease and cannot be used to advise you as to possible treatments, or if treatment is required. The best option is to speak with your physician, and if you have risk factors for vascular disease, screening might be appropriate.

  4. Can I take any medications to make me walk more?

    It depends on what limits your walking. If you have been diagnosed with PAD, there is medication that may help you walk more. The most important issue is knowing what limits your walking.

  5. What steps should I take to reduce my risk for stroke or heart attack?

    You can reduce your risk by stopping smoking, keeping your blood pressure under control, moderate exercise and making sure your cholesterol has been checked. Close interaction with your doctor will help personalize ways in which you can reduce your risk for heart attacks and stroke.

  6. What can I do to stop smoking?

    There is no one best way to quit smoking. Everyone is different, and what worked for a friend or a neighbor may not work for you. The most important things are your desire to quit and an open dialog with your physicians. Methods range from counseling, nicotine alternatives and some people benefit from medications as part of an overall program. There is no magic bullet, and quitting will be hard. But quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.

  7. What is Ankle-Brachial Index or ABI?

    The Ankle-Brachial index (abbreviated ABI) is a simple test of your circulation that involves no needles or medication. A blood pressure cuff is placed on your arm and your ankle. A special type of stethoscope (called a Doppler) is used to listen to your artery. The blood pressure cuffs are inflated, and the pressure at which no blood gets past the blood pressure cuff is recorded. The pressure at the ankle is divided by the pressure in the arm, giving us the ABI. And ABI of 0.9 or higher is normal. If you have no symptoms, but an ABI of less than 0.9, you may likely be able to be watched only, and may not need to have your arteries fixed. There are several conditions that may impact the accuracy of the test, so it should be conducted by a laboratory that is accredited to do it, and the physician interpreting the test should also be accredited to do so.

  8. What is the optimal cholesterol level?

    The ideal cholesterol level depends on your age. In addition, the absolute amount of cholesterol is not the only measure of how ‘good’ your cholesterol level is. There are 2 important types of cholesterol: the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). The ratio of these two types is also critically important. Discussion with your physician will allow a personalized assessment of your cholesterol level.

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