Rest pain, tissue loss, and gangrene are manifestations of critical limb ischemia caused by peripheral arterial disease and define a patient subgroup at highest risk for major limb amputation. Patients with nonhealing lower extremity wounds should be screened for the risk factors for peripheral arterial disease and offered noninvasive vascular testing. The diagnosis of critical limb ischemia mandates prompt institution of medical and surgical management to achieve the best chance of limb salvage. Surgical intervention has evolved from primary amputation to open bypass to the present era of endovascular therapy. The goals of surgical bypass and endovascular therapy are to improve perfusion sufficiently to permit healing. Despite poorer patency rates and the more frequent need for reintervention, endovascular therapy has been shown in multiple retrospective studies to achieve limb salvage similar to open bypass. Only one large, prospective, randomized controlled trial exists comparing open bypass with endovascular therapy: The Bypass versus Angioplasty in Severe Limb Ischemia of the Leg (BASIL) trial. Close clinical surveillance and serial monitoring of limb perfusion by means of noninvasive arterial studies are needed to determine the need for further vascular intervention. Limb salvage patients suffer from multiple comorbidities and benefit from a multidisciplinary, team approach to care.
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