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Peripheral Artery Disease Serious Yet Treatable Condition 

Vascular surgeons offer expertise in PAD treatment

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DAYTON, Ohio (February 25, 2020) – Adults who want to blame a lack of exercise on the pain, numbness or achiness in their leg muscles may want to think again. Such symptoms could actually be pointing to a serious medical condition called peripheral artery disease, or PAD.

PAD is a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to a person’s head, organs and limbs. Over time, the plaque – which is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and fibrous tissue – can harden and narrow arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body’s organs or other areas of the body, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

PAD is a serious health condition since it robs the body’s vital organs and limbs of the blood supply they need; however, it is treatable once properly diagnosed, said Murtuza Habeeb, MD, with Premier Vascular Surgeons.

Older adults are among those who are at risk for developing PAD since plaque buildup is a natural part of aging,” said Dr. Habeeb, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Other risk factors include uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

The legs are one of the most common areas of the body to experience PAD, which is usually diagnosed when a person begins experiencing certain symptoms.

Patients usually have trouble with walking, pain in their hips or thighs or calves, which is commonly described as feeling much like a charley horse,” Dr. Habeeb said. “Sometimes a person can have an ulcer or wound on their foot that is not healing, especially if they are diabetic.

These symptoms, known as claudication, often occur when a person is walking or climbing stairs, and fade when a person is at rest. That’s because a person’s legs require less blood flow while resting than when they are engaged in physical activity, the NHLBI said.

The next step in confirming PAD is to conduct a physical exam, during which the pulse in the legs is recorded. If the pulse is abnormal, then an arterial Doppler test is performed. This test places pressure cuffs around the legs and measures the percentage of blood flow to the feet. Blood flow at 90 percent or less is considered abnormal and would prompt other testing, such as a CT scan or angiogram for confirmation of PAD.

There are different treatment options for PAD,” Dr. Habeeb said. “If your symptoms are mild then we usually treat the disease medically. We try to manage your symptoms without having to do a procedure. This may include controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking cessation, diet change or an increase in exercise.

Lifestyle modifications like this, however, will not be enough for about 30 percent of those diagnosed with the disease, Dr. Habeeb said. In those cases, surgery may be required to open up the artery that has been narrowed. This can be done in one of two ways: endovascular surgery or open surgery.

Endovascular Surgery – Also known as minimally invasive surgery; this procedure goes inside the vessel and opens the narrowed artery by placing a stent or balloon. There are also devices that can physically remove the plaque.  A person’s age, comorbidities, symptoms, and extent of disease tell surgeons if they would be right for this procedure.

Open Surgery – This requires a surgical incision to access the affected artery and create a bypass around the narrowed area to increase blood flow or to physically remove the plaque. Open surgery requires a patient to go under general anesthesia for several hours, and the recovery time is longer than endovascular surgery.

It’s important for patients with peripheral artery disease to see a board-certified vascular surgeon,” Dr. Habeeb said. “We are the only specialty that can do both endovascular and open surgery, which gives us the unique ability to choose what is best for the patients.

For more information about PAD or to schedule an appointment with a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit PremierHealth.com/MakeAnAppointment.

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