Representing Disabled Clients for Over 25 Years

Social Security Lawyer

Donald H. Peters


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Evaluating Peripheral Vascular Disease

  1. What is peripheral vascular disease (PVD)? Generally, PVD is any impairment that affects either the arteries (peripheral arterial disease) or the veins (venous insufficiency) in the extremities, particularly the lower extremities. The usual effect is blockage of the flow of blood either from the heart (arterial) or back to the heart (venous). If you have peripheral arterial disease, you may have pain in your calf after walking a distance that goes away when you rest (intermittent claudication); at more advanced stages, you may have pain in your calf at rest or you may develop ulceration or gangrene. If you have venous insufficiency, you may have swelling, varicose veins, skin pigmentation changes, or skin ulceration.
  2. How do we assess limitations resulting from PVD? We will assess your limitations based on your symptoms together with physical findings, Doppler studies, other appropriate non-invasive studies, or angiographic findings. However, if the PVD has resulted in amputation, we will evaluate any limitations related to the amputation under the musculoskeletal listings, 1.00ff.
  3. What is brawny edema? Brawny edema (4.11A) is swelling that is usually dense and feels firm due to the presence of increased connective tissue; it is also associated with characteristic skin pigmentation changes. It is not the same thing as pitting edema. Brawny edema generally does not pit (indent on pressure), and the terms are not interchangeable. Pitting edema does not satisfy the requirements of 4.11A.
  4. What is lymphedema and how will we evaluate it?
    1. Lymphedema is edema of the extremities due to a disorder of the lymphatic circulation; at its worst, it is called elephantiasis. Primary lymphedema is caused by abnormal development of lymph vessels and may be present at birth (congenital lymphedema), but more often develops during the teens (lymphedema praecox). It may also appear later, usually after age 35 (lymphedema tarda). Secondary lymphedema is due to obstruction or destruction of normal lymphatic channels due to tumor, surgery, repeated infections, or parasitic infection such as filariasis. Lymphedema most commonly affects one extremity.
    2. Lymphedema does not meet the requirements of 4.11, although it may medically equal the severity of that listing. We will evaluate lymphedema by considering whether the underlying cause meets or medically equals any listing or whether the lymphedema medically equals a cardiovascular listing, such as 4.11, or a musculoskeletal listing, such as 1.02A or 1.03. If no listing is met or medically equaled, we will evaluate any functional limitations imposed by your lymphedema when we assess your residual functional capacity.
  5. When will we purchase exercise Doppler studies for evaluating peripheral arterial disease (PAD)? If we need additional evidence of your PAD, we will generally purchase exercise Doppler studies (see 4.00C16 and 4.00C17) when your resting ankle/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio is at least 0.50 but less than 0.80, and only rarely when it is 0.80 or above. We will not purchase exercise Doppler testing if you have a disease that results in abnormal arterial calcification or small vessel disease, but will use your resting toe systolic blood pressure or resting toe/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio. (See 4.00G7c and 4.00G8.) There are no current medical standards for evaluating exercise toe pressures. Because any exercise test stresses your entire cardiovascular system, we will purchase exercise Doppler studies only after an MC, preferably one with experience in the care of patients with cardiovascular disease, has determined that the test would not present a significant risk to you and that there is no other medical reason not to purchase the test (see 4.00C6, 4.00C7, and 4.00C8).
  6. Are there any other studies that are helpful in evaluating PAD? Doppler studies done using a recording ultrasonic Doppler unit and strain-gauge plethysmography are other useful tools for evaluating PAD. A recording Doppler, which prints a tracing of the arterial pulse wave in the femoral, popliteal, dorsalis pedis, and posterior tibial arteries, is an excellent evaluation tool to compare wave forms in normal and compromised peripheral blood flow. Qualitative analysis of the pulse wave is very helpful in the overall assessment of the severity of the occlusive disease. Tracings are especially helpful in assessing severity if you have small vessel disease related to diabetes mellitus or other diseases with similar vascular changes, or diseases causing medial calcifications when ankle pressure is either normal or falsely high.
  7. How do we evaluate PAD under 4.12?
    1. The ankle blood pressure referred to in 4.12A and B is the higher of the pressures recorded from the posterior tibial and dorsalis pedis arteries in the affected leg. The higher pressure recorded from the two sites is the more significant measurement in assessing the extent of arterial insufficiency. Techniques for obtaining ankle systolic blood pressures include Doppler (See 4.00C16 and 4.00C17), plethysmographic studies, or other techniques. We will request any available tracings generated by these studies so that we can review them.
    2. In 4.12A, the ankle/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio is the ratio of the systolic blood pressure at the ankle to the systolic blood pressure at the brachial artery; both taken at the same time while you are lying on your back. We do not require that the ankle and brachial pressures be taken on the same side of your body. This is because, as with the ankle pressure, we will use the higher brachial systolic pressure measured. Listing 4.12A is met when your resting ankle/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio is less than 0.50. If your resting ankle/brachial systolic blood pressure ratio is 0.50 or above, we will use 4.12B to evaluate the severity of your PAD, unless you also have a disease causing abnormal arterial calcification or small vessel disease, such as diabetes mellitus. See 4.00G7c and 4.00G8.
    3. We will use resting toe systolic blood pressures or resting toe/brachial systolic blood pressure ratios (determined the same way as ankle/brachial ratios, see 4.00G7b) when you have intermittent claudication and a disease that results in abnormal arterial calcification (for example, Monckeberg’s sclerosis or diabetes mellitus) or small vessel disease (for example, diabetes mellitus). These diseases may result in misleadingly high blood pressure readings at the ankle. However, high blood pressures due to vascular changes related to these diseases seldom occur at the toe level. While the criteria in 4.12C and 4.12D are intended primarily for individuals who have a disease causing abnormal arterial calcification or small vessel disease, we may also use them for evaluating anyone with PAD.
  8. How are toe pressures measured? Toe pressures are measured routinely in most vascular laboratories through one of three methods: most frequently, photoplethysmography; less frequently, plethysmography using strain gauge cuffs; and Doppler ultrasound. Toe pressure can also be measured by using any blood pressure cuff that fits snugly around the big toe and is neither too tight nor too loose. A neonatal cuff or a cuff designed for use on fingers or toes can be used in the measurement of toe pressure.
  9. How do we use listing 4.12 if you have had a peripheral graft? Peripheral grafting serves the same purpose as coronary grafting; that is, to bypass a narrow or obstructed arterial segment. If intermittent claudication recurs or persists after peripheral grafting, we may purchase Doppler studies to assess the flow of blood through the bypassed vessel and to establish the current severity of the peripheral arterial impairment. However, if you have had peripheral grafting done for your PAD, we will not use the findings from before the surgery to assess the current severity of your impairment, although we will consider the severity and duration of your impairment prior to your surgery in making our determination or decision.

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Call Social Security Professionals now to discuss your claim for free!

You need no money to hire Attorney Donald H. Peters

(248) 549-3485

Call Social Security Professionals now to discuss your claim for free

You need no money to hire Attorney Donald H. Peters

(248) 549-3485

Southfield Lawyer Donald Peters of the Law Office of Donald H. Peters, P.C. in Southfield, Michigan, handles Social Security Disability claims throughout Michigan and in the Tri-County Metro Detroit area including Detroit, Southfield, Novi, Warren, Royal Oak, Roseville, Livonia, Mount Clemens, Sterling Heights, Farmington Hills, Birmingham, Berkley, Oak Park, West Bloomfield, Ann Arbor, Eastpointe, Waterford, Flint, Canton, Taylor, Romulus, Westland, Clinton Township, Troy, Dearborn, Brighton, Howell, Pontiac, Rochester Hills,  as well as Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County, Ingham County, and Livingston County, Michigan.


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