Between 8 and 12 million Americans are affected by peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, where the arteries that bring blood to the legs are blocked by atherosclerotic plaque. The incidence of PAD is expected to rise in coming decades as the population ages, one reason its vital to develop new methods to diagnose the severity of PAD and develop new drugs to treat it.
By examining the physiology of patients who exercised under a magnetic resonance imaging scanner (MRI), doctors at the University of Virginia Health System have devised a new test to diagnose and follow peripheral arterial disease. This test shows promise in helping drug companies test new PAD medications and, perhaps in the near future, may give doctors the ability to tell which patients are at risk for developing PAD-related complications and require stenting, bypass surgery or even amputation of a leg.
A UVa cardiologist, Dr. Christopher Kramer, and his colleagues, measured how fast the leg muscles of patients with PAD, and people without PAD, recovered a phosphorus substance called phosphocreatine (PCr), the major energy "store" in muscle cells. Tests at UVa on 20 patients with mild to moderate PAD and 14 people without PAD, showed that the median time to recover phosphocreatine at the end of exercise in PAD patients was three times slower, 91 seconds in the PAD group versus 35 seconds in the normal group.
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