Limb Salvage

UW Health offers patients suffering from critical limb ischemia a comprehensive team devoted to limb salvage.
Limb Salvage
When circulatory blockages threaten the viability of a person's limbs or extremities, traditional methods to revascularize the limb may not be possible, and the only option has been limb amputation. Through the expertise of vascular specialists-including cardiovascular interventionalists, vascular surgeons and microvascular plastic surgeons, UW Health offers patients suffering from critical limb ischemia a team devoted to limb salvage.
Our goal for our patients is to promote independence and prevent major amputation associated with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) - a disease in which plaque, a substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other material in the blood, builds up in the arteries that transport blood throughout your body and limbs.

Angioplasty Technology
The use of angioplasty to revascularize a limb is generally done by a cardiac interventionalist and vascular surgeon. The procedure involves the use of angioplasty equipment in areas of the body where ballooning and stents aren't generally used, because the blood vessels that supply the legs are so small. With the increasing sophistication of angioplasty technology, the balloons are more easily manageable, and surgeons can delve further into the extremities with these devices.
A vascular surgeon provides the anatomical and surgical expertise while an interventional cardiologist handles the technical work, performing the balloon angioplasty and clearing out the artery blockage with a wire catheter.
Not a Guaranteed Fix
Like other cardiovascular surgical procedures, the limb salvage procedure is not a guaranteed permanent fix for all vascular problems. National patient studies show that between 20 to 50 percent of arteries re-opened with stents or ballooning will re-clog within the first year. But the point of limb salvage isn't necessarily to keep the artery open for life. By working to save the limb, physicians are hoping to keep the artery open long enough for the ulcers caused by circulatory blockage to heal.
For some patients, the minimally-invasive limb salvage technique has meant the difference between losing a toe and losing a foot - or an entire leg.

Extended Efforts in Limb Salvage Surgery


Beyond angioplasty, our vascular surgeons who are part of the first vascular surgery program in Wisconsin, partner with UW Health plastic surgeons who specialize in reconstructive surgery and microvascular techniques to return blood flow to wounds or blocked vessels in limbs that might otherwise have been amputated.


Our program offers:

  • Access to cutting edge treatments and devices
  • Years of experience with minimally invasive approaches
  • National recognition for the development and publication of minimally invasive treatments for lower extremity vascular disease
  • If surgery is necessary, years of expertise with complex issues related to surgery including:
    • Patients requiring redo surgeries where there is a lack of a vein
    • Operations on calcified vessels
    • Bypass to the smallest vessels in the foot
    • Plastic surgery for complex wounds

Care for Complex Patients


UW Health's team offers immediate and advanced treatment options for complex patients including:

  • Evaluation and management of patients with severe PAD: Pain while resting, non-healing ulcers and gangrene
  • Evaluation and management of patients with tissue loss that limits limb function: Exposed tendons and mid- and hind-foot wounds, particularly involving loss of weight bearing surface
  • Treatment for patients with lower-limb pain due to PAD and/or poor circulation (lower limb pain or cramping after walking)