NEW ORLEANS — Patients with peripheral artery disease and recent acute coronary syndrome have significantly increased risk of major adverse limb events at three years, according to new study.

Because few treatments are available specifically to prevent limb events, these results suggest future research should focus on this area, lead researcher Christina L. Fanola, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston said Monday during Scientific Sessions.

Experts say peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects nearly 9 million people in the U.S. It occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and the legs don’t get enough blood, causing pain and difficulty walking. PAD can lead to sores that don’t heal, gangrene and amputations. Acute coronary syndrome, or ACS, is an umbrella term for sudden blockage of blood to the heart muscle, including heart attack.

The study was a post-hoc analysis of the SOLID-TIMI 52 randomized trial, which included about 13,000 patients with recent ACS and compared the drug darapladib with placebo.

In PAD patients, major adverse limb events were more frequent at three years than in patients with no known PAD, according to the study.

Darapladib did not reduce the limb events or any other outcome in PAD patients.

Fanola said the increased risk in PAD patients was not surprising, though the magnitude of the increase and the fact that the risk rose early in the study and remained elevated throughout follow-up did surprise the researchers.

However, she noted that the post-hoc nature of the analysis limits its interpretation.