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HealthInfo Canterbury

Acute limb ischaemia


Acute limb ischaemia is a medical emergency. If you think you have the symptoms of acute limb ischaemia, go to the hospital's emergency department.

The typical symptoms of acute limb ischaemia are referred to as the "six P’s”:

Acute limb ischaemia (isc-ee-mi-a) is the sudden lack of blood supply to an arm or leg. It's most commonly caused by a blood clot in an artery.

This is usually caused by peripheral vascular disease. Rarely, acute limb ischaemia can be caused by aortic dissection or an injury.

How is acute limb ischaemia diagnosed?

Your GP will examine your arm or leg, and ask you questions about your health. If they think you have acute limb ischaemia they'll probably arrange for you to go to hospital to see a vascular specialist (a surgical doctor who specialises in blood vessels).

In hospital, they may arrange tests like a CT scan, a doppler ultrasound or a duplex ultrasound. For information about the doppler ultrasound and duplex ultrasound tests, see Tests for blood vessel problems.

How is acute limb ischaemia treated?

Acute limb ischaemia is usually treated by surgery. The surgery might be:

For more information about these types of surgery, see Treatments for blood vessel problems.

Your doctor might prescribe medication to dissolve the clot.

Acute limb ischaemia is treatable, but the treatment shouldn't be delayed. Without prompt treatment, acute limb ischaemia can develop into critical limb ischaemia.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2018.


Page reference: 404542

Review key: HIBLV-403653