The natural history of superficial femoral artery stenoses

Daniel B. Walsh*, Jeffrey J. Gilbertson, Robert M. Zwolak, Sharon Besso, Gary C. Edelman, Joseph R. Schneider, Jack L. Cronenwett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Since the natural history of specific superficial femoral artery stenoses is not known, we examined progression rates of superficial femoral artery stenoses in 45 lower extremities found when arteriograms were obtained of 38 patients for symptomatic atherosclerotic disease in the opposite leg or abdomen. These initial superficial femoral artery arteriograms were compared with later arteriograms in 25 limbs, duplex scans in 27 limbs, and both modalities in 7 limbs. After a mean interval of 37 months, most superficial femoral artery stenoses (72%) did not progress. However, 12 superficial femoral artery stenoses progressed (28%; mean follow-up, 37 months, including 7 that occluded (17%). Superficial femoral artery stenoses progressed among patients who complained of symptom progression at a rate faster than that among asymptomatic patients (15.6%/year vs 3%/year; p = 0.006). Superficial femoral artery lesions also progressed more rapidly among patients whose contralateral superficial femoral artery was occluded (10%/year vs 1.6%/year; p = 0.04). By multivariate regression analysis, symptom progression and smoking history were predictive of superficial femoral artery stenosis progression. In the seven patients whose superficial femoral artery stenoses progressed to occlusion, the average rate of stenosis progression was 12%/year (maximum predicted rate, 30% per year by 95% confidence limit). These results indicate that superficial femoral artery stenoses usually progress with synchronous symptomatic deterioration. Other than symptom progression, only cumulative smoking history and contralateral superficial femoral artery occlusion could be associated with superficial femoral artery stenosis progression in this small series. By use of the maximum predicted progression rate of 30% per year, reasonable decision making regarding follow-up or prophylactic endovascular treatment of superficial femoral artery stenoses is possible until larger populations are studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-304
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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