Gonçalo Cabral Explains at SIC Channel What is Peripheral Artery Disease

Gonçalo Cabral, angiologist and vascular surgeon at Hospital Beatriz Ângelo (HBA) and Hospital da Luz Lisboa and Oeiras, participated in the TV show “Dr. Saúde”, at SIC channel, dedicated to peripheral artery disease. The TV show broadcasted on June 25, included a documentary on a surgery performed by this doctor to clear the arteries in the lower limbs of a patient.

Peripheral artery disease is estimated to affect 6% of the Portuguese population. It causes painful walking, in more advanced stages, leg chilling, alterations in skin color, pain at rest, sores in the ankles or toes and even gangrene, with risk of amputation or of life itself. “Inside the arteries, atherosclerosis plaques form (atheromatous plaques, composed of cholesterol, calcium, etc.), narrowing arteries, in a process that starts quite early (since childhood) and has nothing to do with aging, but mostly with risk factors such as smoking, obesity and diabetes”, explained Gonçalo Cabral.

“When there is narrowing or obstruction of arteries, the muscles do not receive sufficient blood (and therefore oxygen) necessary for normal activity”, the surgeon described. The disease manifests when the patient feels pain and is forced to repeatedly stop walking, to take a rest. This intermittent claudication is the reason for this disease to be known as the “window shopper’s disease”.

Gonçalo Cabral also approached the possible therapeutics. It is fundamental, before all, “to control the risk factors (smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes) and to do exercise: it has been shown that one hour of walking a day increases, after six months, the distance a person can cover without resting”.

Treatments include medication (to control cholesterol, for instance) and surgical interventions: endovascular surgery (more simple and less invasive) and conventional surgery (in most severe stages of the disease).