Lower limb ischemia due to long-term abuse of cocaine

Andrea Denegri, Pietro Ameri, Francesco Paparo, Giovanni Murialdo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cocaine is the most commonly used recreational drug among young adults with levels reaching epidemics proportions. This accelerated rate of use is due mainly to easy access and administration, reduced cost, and, importantly, underestimation of the drug risks. Cocaine, instead, is responsible of endothelial dysfunction and accelerated atherosclerosis with consequent organ damage. Cocaine abuse is not only associated with central necrotizing vasculitis, but it is also appeared to play a role in the development of peripheral vasoconstriction with symptoms similar to Buerger's disease. The current study reports a middle-aged man addicted to cocaine for 20 years. The patient presents several cardiovascular disease risk factors and manifestations, including diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Additionally, arteriography showed complete left posterior tibial artery obstruction with distal collateral vessels and severe leftfoot ischemia. For clinical worsening 1 month later, the patient underwent another arteriography. Although angioplasty of posterior tibial artery showed recovery of blood flow, immediately after treatment (selective percutaneous transluminal angioplasty of posterior tibial artery, dilation with balloon without stenting), a return to pretreatment blood flow 2 min later was observed. This transient change was mediated by severe vasospasm resulting in a complete re-obstruction of the vessel. The poor vascular manifestations are most probably due to cocaine-necrotizing vasculitis subsequent to endothelial dysfunction and accelerated atherosclerosis usually associated with cardiovascular risk factors. Therefore, treatments of young cocaine addicts presenting many cardiovascular risk factors and manifestations should always be carefully investigated and cautiously approached, especially in those with poor outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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