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Leg Heat Therapy to Improve Walking Tolerance and Vascular Function in Patients with Symptomatic Peripheral Artery Disease
Lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) is an increasingly prevalent manifestation of atherosclerosis that substantially limits mobility and increases mortality. Few options currently exists for practical conservative treatment of individuals with PAD. We have previously demonstrated that lower limb heat therapy (HT) can improve leg blood flow and reduce systolic blood pressure in patient with lower extremity PAD. Using three unique clinical trials, we sought to test the hypothesis that repeated exposure to HT would improve walking tolerance and vascular function in patients with lower extremity PAD. In these trials, we have sought to examine the clinical efficacy of HT, the physiological mechanisms which may underpin changes in walking endurance in this population, and also the practicality of employing HT in a home-based setting. The primary finding from these trials was that daily application of leg HT improved walking endurance in patients with lower-extremity PAD. Furthermore, the treatment adherence rate was excellent (<96%) and was not associated with severe adverse events. The changes in walking tolerance were consistently not associated with positive changes in vascular function, suggesting an alternative mechanism should be examined in future studies.