Aortoiliac Occlusive Disease

Aortoiliac occlusive disease is a type of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) that affects the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to your limbs.

Aortoiliac occlusive disease occurs when your iliac arteries become narrowed or blocked. The aorta, your body's main artery, splits into branches at about the level of your belly button. These branches are called the iliac arteries, and they go through your pelvis into your legs, where they divide into many smaller arteries that run down to your toes.

Surgeons in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Cooper University Health Care have extensive experience in the comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Why Choose Cooper to Treat Aortoiliac Occlusive Disease?

Our vascular and endovascular surgeons are South Jersey’s leaders in treating aortoiliac occlusive disease. With a full array of diagnostic and treatment resources, we carefully tailor treatment to your individual situation. These resources include:

  • Accurate diagnosis: In addition to a complete medical history and thorough physical examination, our doctors use additional tests including:
    • Ankle-brachial index (ABI): A non-invasive test to compare the blood pressure in your ankle and your arm; a difference between the two suggests a blood flow problem
    • Doppler ultrasound: This non-invasive test uses high-frequency sound waves to better identify specific arteries that are blocked
    • Angiography: There are three types of angiography that may be performed:
      • Contrast arteriography, in which your physician injects a contrast dye into your arteries and takes x-ray images to find the exact location and pattern of blockages. If a blockage is identified and is appropriate for treatment by angioplasty and a stent, this procedure may be carried out at the same time.
      • CT angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are imaging scans specifically for evaluating your blood vessels
  • Individualized treatment: Treatment depends on the severity of your aortoiliac occlusive disease. We provide a full range of treatment options, including:
    • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, weight management through exercise and healthy eating, and tight blood sugar control if you have diabetes
    • Medications to control cholesterol, blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots, and help you walk farther without pain
    • Angioplasty with or without stent placement. If your condition does not improve with conservative measures, your doctor may recommend angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to your legs. A stent is a small, metal mesh tube that keeps the artery open.
    • Surgery. For more extensive blockages or those that cannot be treated with angioplasty, surgery to bypass or clear blocked arteries may be required

Aortoiliac Occlusive Disease Causes and Risk Factors

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is the major cause of aortoiliac occlusive disease. Atherosclerosis occurs when a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the walls of your arteries.

The major risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include:

  • Smoking
  • High levels of cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • A family history of heart disease

In rare cases, a condition known as Takayasu’s arteritis may cause blockages in the aorta and its branches. Takayasu’s arteritis usually affects young Asian women between the ages of 10 and 30. It’s caused by inflammation in the arteries. 

Aortoiliac Occlusive Disease Symptoms

When your iliac arteries narrow or become blocked, your legs may not receive the blood and oxygen they need. This lack of oxygen is called ischemia and it can cause pain.

Early in the disease, you may feel pain, cramping, or fatigue in your buttocks, thighs and legs when you walk or exercise—a condition called intermittent claudication. As the disease progresses, you may feel pain, usually in your toes or feet, even when you are resting.

Some men who have aortoiliac occlusive disease also experience erectile dysfunction, the inability to have or maintain an erection.

Aortoiliac disease may worsen if it is not treated. Signs that it has advanced—which usually means that your leg arteries are blocked in more than once place—include:

  • Severe pain, coldness, and numbness in a limb
  • Sores on your toes, heels, or lower legs
  • Dry, scaly, cracked skin on your feet
  • Weakened muscles in your legs
  • Gangrene (tissue death), which may require amputation

Contact Us

To learn more about the services available in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.2151.

Refer a Patient

If you are a doctor who wants to refer a patient to the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, please call 856.968.7067.