What is Critical Limb Ischemia?
Limb ischemia refers to obstruction of the arteries leading to reduced flow of blood to the limbs (hand, arms and feet). It is categorized into Acute Limb Ischemia (ALI) or Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) depending on the severity or onset. ALI is a sudden blockage of blood flow to limbs leading to tissue necrosis and requires immediate treatment. CLI develops over a period of time and can range from pain at rest to gangrene.
Causes For CLI
CLI is an advanced stage of peripheral artery disease which occurs due to the buildup of cholesterol in fatty deposits called plaques. This plaque leads to the narrowing of arteries which reduces blood flow. In absence of blood flow, oxygen supply is interrupted and ultimately there is tissue death or necrosis. Although age is a critical factor for the manifestation of CLI, Lifestyle related conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are equally responsible for CLI. Also prone are diabetic patients or ones with a family history of atherosclerosis.
Symptoms of CLI
The most typical sign of limb-threatening persistent ischemia is a severe foot or leg pain. This discomfort frequently wakes you up at night. To obtain some relief from the discomfort, you might hang your leg off the edge of your bed or get up and move around. Some individuals do not experience pain but do experience other symptoms like the ones listed below:
- chilly legs, feet, or hands.
- clean, shiny, hairless, or excessively dry feet.
- Your legs or feet’s pulses are weak or absent.
- Your hands, feet, or legs become numb.
- Leg or foot ulcers that take a long time to heal.
- Gangrenous skin discolouration or bleeding.
- massive toenails.
Diagnosis of CLI
Based on your symptoms and other medical issues, your healthcare professional might be concerned that you have critical limb ischemia. Additional diagnostic procedures including CT scans, MRIs, angiograms, or ultrasounds might be used. These assessments look at:
- Your hands, fingers, ankles, feet, and toes all have blood flow.
- How fast or completely injuries heal
- The degree of blocked or constricted arteries.
How Can We Treat CLI?
Conventional treatments require bypass surgery or focus on providing temporary pain relief. Advanced stages of the disease may also require amputation to prevent fatal circumstances. Current research has shown the promising potential of stem cell therapy in curing CLI. Stem cell therapy not only provides permanent pain relief but also helps in restoring the blood flow through arteries.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Treat CLI?
Stem cell therapy involves the administration of stem cells at the site of tissue damage. These stem cells have the inherent potential to form new blood vessels and arteries through a process called neo-vascularization, hence replacing the damaged arteries. This ensures the regeneration of tissues and uninterrupted blood flow and oxygen supply.