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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 block 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.

What causes Critical Limb Ischemia?

CLI is an advanced stage of peripheral artery disease which occurs due to buildup of cholesterol of fatty deposits called plaques. These plaque lead to narrowing of arteries that reduce 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 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 family history of atherosclerosis.

What are the Symptoms of CLI?

Patients with CLI experience sudden extreme “rest pain” especially at night. Rest pain is a burning pain in the legs that occurs at a reclining or elevated position of the leg. It occurs due to absence of blood flow through arteries and is relieved by either sitting or standing. It can lead to soreness and numbness in the legs and absence of pulse. Patients often experience skin ulcers that do not heal and this can also progress to gangrene.

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 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 cells therapy involves 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 regeneration of tissues and uninterrupted blood flow and oxygen supply.