July 30 (UPI) -- A less invasive procedure may help patients with clogged leg arteries live longer lives and avoid amputations, new research shows.
The findings were published Tuesday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
The study notes that the incidence of critical limb ischemia has continued to rise with the aging U.S. population. By the year 2050 it is estimated that the number of patients who undergo amputation will more than double from 1.6 million, to 3.6 million.
"The question has been whether to first offer an open surgery or an endovascular procedure to patients with critical limb ischemia. Each strategy has its benefits, but it is unclear which one first is optimal and we wanted to gain a better understanding of what the current outcomes were," study author Jonathan Lin, a researcher in the department of surgery at UC Davis Health, said in a news release.
Critical limb ischemia is a serious form of clogged leg artery, often leading to gangrene, slow healing leg wounds and amputation.
The study included more than 16,000 patients who either underwent open bypass first or endovascular procedure first to treat critical limb ischemia at hospitals throughout California.
The patients who first underwent the endovascular procedure lived longer without requiring an amputation and had a lower risk of needing a major amputation. They did, however, need additional surgery or procedures to regain blood flow.
Open surgeries work by rerouting blood through a piece of vein around a blockage to the lower leg and foot. For the endovascular method, a thin tube and wire go through a small cut in the groin to reach the blocked area. Once the area is unblocked, a medicine-coated wire mesh tube would keep it open.
The American Heart Association estimates the number of patients who have amputations will jump from 1.6 million to 3.6 million by 2050.
"Regardless, the type of therapy a patient will receive needs to be a decision that patients and their physicians arrive at together," Lin said. "Critical limb ischemia is usually not an emergency and there is time to determine the most appropriate course of therapy."