This disease linked to higher risk of leg amputations

In a new study, researchers found that microvascular disease, a disorder of very small blood vessels, may be linked to an increased risk of leg amputations.

People with this disease anywhere in the body have a higher risk of leg amputation compared to people without the disease.

The research was conducted by a team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In microvascular disease, tiny vessels that carry blood to muscles and other tissues throughout the body no longer function properly.

While the disease is commonly diagnosed in the eyes or in the kidney, the authors believe those are markers of microvascular dysfunction throughout the body.

Peripheral artery disease or PAD is a narrowing of the arteries away from the heart and is typically found in the legs.

It can lead to cramping, pain or fatigue in the leg muscles while walking or climbing stairs. If left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and the need for amputation.

In addition, PAD in the legs has long been considered a sign that a patient likely also has narrowed arteries leading to the heart or brain.

If a patient has PAD, they have a higher risk of other cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.

In the new study, the team examined leg amputation risk among people with microvascular disease or PAD or those who had both microvascular disease and PAD.

They used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, which included more than 125,000 veterans who initially did not have amputations when the study began.

They found that over an average of nine years, participants with the microvascular disease had a 3.7-fold increased risk of leg amputation, and 18% experienced amputations during the study.

In addition, PAD had a 13.9-fold increased risk of leg amputation and suffered 22% of all amputations.

Microvascular disease and PAD together had a 23-fold increase in the risk of leg amputation which accounted for 45% of all amputations.

The team says that microvascular disease is a system-wide disorder rather than only affecting one part of the body.

Microvascular disease in any part of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys or feet may be linked to lower blood vessel function in other parts of the body.

This can put patients at risk for leg amputations.

Patients with the microvascular disease need close observation and care of their feet to detect sores or injuries early to promote healing and reduce amputations.

The lead author of the study is  Joshua A. Beckman, M.D., professor of medicine and director of Vascular Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The study is published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

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