Indexed on: 04 Jun '11Published on: 04 Jun '11Published in: VASA. Zeitschrift fur Gefasskrankheiten
The prevalence of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is on the rise in an aging population, significantly affecting quality of life, morbidity and mortality. Besides medical treatment and surgical or interventional revascularization, supervised exercise programs are a primary treatment modality for PAD. Training may significantly increase pain-free walking time (+ 180 %) while avoiding the associated complications of (repeated) invasive revascularization. Training effects rely on an improvement of risk factor management, muscle function, economy of movement, hemorheology, vascular growth and collateral vessel growth. Exercise training upregulates pulsatile fluid shear stress on the vascular endothelium, prompting an improvement of endothelial function (eNOS, NO) and an outgrowth of preexistent collaterals (arteriogenesis) to functional conductance arteries outside the ischemic area at risk. However, the necessary intense minimum training intervals compromise patient compliance, and the impaired functional status of many PAD patients limits active exercise training. Strategies are necessary to a) increase training compliance, b) make the benefits of exercise training available to patients unable to exercise actively and c) therapeutically enhance the adaptive growth of biological bypasses (arteriogenesis). A modified form of passive exercise training derived from enhanced external counterpulsation (low-pressure ECP) which was originally developed for the therapy of heart failure, may prove to be an option for this group of patients. Therefore, this review article suggests a tailored combination therapy, consisting of a facilitating revascularization procedure to restore arterial inflow, succeeded by supervised exercise training, which has yielded promising therapeutic results in clinical trials. Further studies, using appropriate imaging methods and controls, are under way to (a) establish the efficacy of low-pressure EECP in PAD patients and (b) to directly correlate training-induced improvements of collateral flow to the functional improvements seen with exercise training.