What is thromboangiitis obliterans (TAO) (Buerger disease)?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020
  • Author: Naiem Nassiri, MD; Chief Editor: Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD  more...
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Answer

Thromboangiitis obliterans (TAO), an inflammatory vasculopathy also known as Buerger disease, is characterized by an inflammatory endarteritis that causes a prothrombotic state and subsequent vaso-occlusive phenomena. The inflammatory process is initiated within the tunica intima. It characteristically affects small and medium-sized arteries as well as veins of the upper and lower extremities. The condition is strongly associated with heavy tobacco use, and disease progression is closely linked to continued use. (See Pathophysiology and Etiology.)

Patients often present with moderate-to-severe claudication that can quickly progress to critical limb ischemia featuring rest pain or tissue loss. Features of acute limb ischemia (eg, pain, paresthesia, palor, mottling, poikilothermia, paresis, and pulselessness) are common signs and symptoms encountered in the emergency setting. [1, 2, 3, 4] (See Presentation.)

Pharmacologic therapy is generally ineffective; abstinence from tobacco is the only measure known to prevent disease progression. (See Treatment.) Given the arteritis of the small and medium-sized vessels, surgical or endovascular revascularization may not be possible, because of the absence of a distal target for revascularization. As the disease evolves, amputation may be the only viable option.


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