Skeletal muscle capillary density is related to anaerobic threshold and claudication in peripheral artery disease

Brian D. Duscha, William E. Kraus, William S. Jones, Jennifer L. Robbins, Lucy W. Piner, Kim M. Huffman, Jason D. Allen, Brian H. Annex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is characterized by impaired blood flow to the lower extremities, causing claudication and exercise intolerance. Exercise intolerance may result from reduced skeletal muscle capillary density and impaired muscle oxygen delivery. This cross-sectional study tested the hypothesis that capillary density is related to claudication times and anaerobic threshold (AT) in patients with PAD. A total of 37 patients with PAD and 29 control subjects performed cardiopulmonary exercise testing on a treadmill for AT and gastrocnemius muscle biopsies. Skeletal muscle capillary density was measured using immunofluorescence staining. PAD had decreased capillary density (278 ± 87 vs 331 ± 86 endothelial cells/mm2, p = 0.05), peak VO2 (15.7 ± 3.9 vs 24.3 ± 5.2 mL/kg/min, p ⩽ 0.001), and VO2 at AT (11.5 ± 2.6 vs 16.1 ± 2.8 mL/kg/min, p ⩽ 0.001) compared to control subjects. In patients with PAD, but not control subjects, capillary density was related to VO2 at AT (r = 0.343; p = 0.038), time to AT (r = 0.381; p = 0.020), and time after AT to test termination (r = 0.610; p ⩽ 0.001). Capillary density was also related to time to claudication (r = 0.332; p = 0.038) and time after claudication to test termination (r = 0.584; p ⩽ 0.001). In conclusion, relationships between capillary density, AT, and claudication symptoms indicate that, in PAD, exercise limitations are likely partially dependent on limited skeletal muscle capillary density and oxidative metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-418
Number of pages8
JournalVascular Medicine (United Kingdom)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • anaerobic threshold
  • angiogenesis
  • capillary density
  • exercise
  • peripheral artery disease (PAD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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