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Ostomy Wound Manage. 1996 Apr;42(3):46-8, 50-1.

Arterial ulcers: assessment and diagnosis.


Arterial ulcers occur because of inadequate perfusion of skin and subcutaneous tissue at rest. Arterial occlusive disease, common among smokers, diabetics and the elderly, can lead to claudication, rest pain and gangrene, in addition to localized ulceration. Other processes, such as venous stasis, pressure, trauma, and vasculitis, can also cause ischemia. However, a thorough patient history and physical assessment can help discriminate between ischemic ulcers caused by arterial disease and other types of ulcers. The key to the diagnosis of arterial occlusive disease is the patient history. Pain while walking is the most common presenting complaint and can indicate intermittent claudication. Physical assessment should include both a general exam, looking for problems relating to lungs, heart and nervous system, and a focused exam of the affected extremities and arterial pulses. Vascular laboratory findings can also help confirm a diagnosis of arterial ischemic ulceration. The key to treatment is improvement in the vascular perfusion to the affected area. Surgical revascularization is the mainstay of treatment, with some interventional procedures becoming accepted. Medical options, in addition to correction of underlying medical problems, include good wound and supportive care, but pharmaceutical interventions have generally not proven effective, and should be considered only if interventional procedures are not possible. With an adequate blood supply reestablished, most arterial ulcers will progress to healing unless there are complicating factors.

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