ST. LOUIS – Similar to coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a very common circulatory problem that causes reduced blood flow to the limbs. PAD is a condition where plaque builds up in the artery walls that carry blood to the arms and legs.

Symptoms of PAD can be nonexistent, but the most common symptom is pain while walking or climbing stairs, leg numbness or weakness, an increased occurrence of infections, or toe and foot sores that do not heal.

Research has shown that exercise can be effective in increasing leg circulation and reducing pain caused by PAD. However, depending on your situation, vascular specialists will typically use minimally invasive techniques for treating PAD.

Dr. Keith Pereira, a vascular interventional radiologist at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, says a new procedure called Deep Venous Arterialization (DVA) is being offered for patients whose standard care for blockages may not suffice.

“DVA is a procedure where we actually connect the artery to the vein. It’s done to two little pinholes—one pinhole in the groin, one pinhole in the back of the foot,” he said. “We connect these two using small wires and connect the artery in the vein, and now give new blood flow to the foot that has never seen blood flow in a long time.”

DVA is a game-changer that has the potential to save a patient’s leg.

“The success rate of these is about 70-80%, which is very good. Now, in those 20% patients who cannot get these interventions, or in those patients who have failed this intervention, there’s no option,” Pereira said. “So, these patients have to go for an amputation. Now, there is a newer procedure that is showing good promise and showing that in these 20% patients who have got no other option, there’s a 66% chance that you can save your leg.”

Pereira says PAD is often associated with smoking. He encourages patients to quit smoking, control diabetes and maintain a healthy diet as lifestyle changes that can prevent PAD before it becomes a problem in the first place.

To learn more about PAD symptoms and treatments, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on KPLR News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.