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All about Acute Lower Limb Ischaemia

What is it and what causes it?

Acute lower limb ischaemia is a rapid decrease in blood to a limb. This is due to acute occlusion (when blood flow in the leg suddenly stops; this can have serious consequences as the tissue starts to die due to lack of blood) of the peripheral artery. Acute lower limb ischaemia is mostly caused by sudden obstruction of an artery due to embolus or thrombosis. This is a slowly progressing disease that is usually triggered by an obliterated arterial disease.

Signs and symptoms

· Sudden pain when walking short distances or resting (usually in the calf, thigh or entire limb)

· Pain in the foot is very common in someone with Ischaemia

· Trouble with sleep due to pain

· Altered sensation

· Bloodless limbs

Six P's

· Pain

· Pallor (unhealthy pale appearance)

· Paralysis

· Pulse deficit

· Paresthesia (abnormal sensation)

· Poikilothermia (irregular body temperature)

Diagnosis and treatment

In order to diagnose acute lower limb ischaemia, there are a series of steps that can be taken to determine where the occlusion is located, how severe it is and what the cause is. A simple test to locate the occlusion is to test the pulse to see where it can no longer be detected. If any of the above symptoms occur, it is important that you seek an assessment that can diagnose you with the correct diagnosis.

When treating acute lower limb ischaemia the goal is to ensure that the limbs return to normal health and has a healthy blood flow to ensure that the tissue does not die. Most patient will have no lasting effects if it is treated within 4 hours of the initial diagnosis. However, if treatment is delayed it can cause permanent disability, amputation and/or death. The best intervention for this condition is it to have an emergency embolectomy (when the clot is removed), to restore the flow of blood.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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