Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) impairs walking capacity and is often associated with a profound endothelial vasodilator dysfunction, characterized by reduced bioactivity and/or synthesis of endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO). Previous studies have suggested that dietary supplementation of L-arginine, the precursor of NO, improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation, limb blood flow and walking distance. However, these studies have been small, and have used large intravenous doses of L-arginine. The optimal dose of L-arginine has not been determined. Accordingly, this pilot study was conducted to establish the lowest effective oral dose of L-arginine to improve walking distance in preparation for the definitive study. Patients with PAD and intermittent claudication (n = 80) participated in this study. Eligibility criteria included: (1) ankle-brachial index (ABI) at rest ≤ 0.90; (2) post-exercise reduction in ABI ≤ 25%; and (3) difference in absolute claudication distance of ≤ 25% between two consecutive treadmill tests. Treadmill testing was performed using the Skinner-Gardner protocol and community-based walking was assessed using the walking impairment questionnaire. Patients were randomly assigned to oral doses of 0, 3, 6 or 9g of L-arginine daily in three divided doses for 12 weeks. Treadmill testing was performed prior to administration of the study drug and again after 12 weeks of treatment. The study drug was well tolerated, with no significant adverse effects of L-arginine therapy. The safety laboratory studies were unremarkable, except for a statistically significant reduction in hematocrit in the L-arginine-treated groups. There was no significant difference observed in absolute claudication distance between the groups. However, a trend was observed for a greater increase in walking distance in the group treated with 3g L-arginine daily, and there was a trend for an improvement in walking speed in patients treated with L-arginine. This pilot study provided data for safety, for power calculation and for dosing for the larger definitive trial that is now underway.
- Functional capacity
- Vascular disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine