Illustration of blood clot in artery

Acute Limb Ischemia

Acute Limb Ischemia (ALI) is a medical emergency marked by a sudden interruption of blood flow through a limb’s blood vessels. Associated with a high-risk of limb loss and death, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to improving patient outcomes and preserving limb function. ALI is often a complication of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a chronic condition suffered by more than 8 million Americans ages 40 and older.

More About This Condition

ALI occurs when there is a sudden interruption of blood flow through blood vessels of the arm or leg. In most cases, flow is blocked by thrombus, a thickened mass of blood or clot. Such a blockage prevents necessary oxygen and nutrients from reaching cells that depend on them for survival. How long tissue remains viable or “alive” depends on the degree to which a vessel is blocked, as well as the presence of alternate vessels through which blood can flow to reach at-risk tissue.

ALI can occur due to the following events:

  • Acute thrombosis occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms at the site of plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) in an artery.
  • Arterial embolism occurs when a blood clot (embolus) breaks off from elsewhere in the body, such as the heart, travels through the bloodstream, and becomes lodged in an artery.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This overview is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Be sure to talk with your doctor for a complete discussion of this condition as well as the benefits and risks of any treatment options.


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