St. Vincent Healthcare Provides Treatment Options for Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease
Billings, MT - According to the Society of Vascular Surgery, more than 10 million Americans are affected by peripheral artery disease (PAD), a common disorder of the circulatory system in the limbs. Because early warning signs may not always be severe, many people may not realize they have it. The disorder occurs when the arteries narrow due to plaque deposits, also known as hardening of the arteries. These deposits reduce the flow of blood and oxygen through the body. It is a serious condition that has been linked to heart attack and stroke and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation. September is PAD Awareness Month and St. Vincent Healthcare is working with providers and patients to provide education on the early warning signs and treatment options to help inform the community about PAD.
Treatments for PAD focus on managing symptoms and slowing down or stopping the progression of the disorder. Depending on the severity, treatments can range from exercise and medication to angioplasty or vascular stenting.
People who suffer from PAD often have problems with their legs and the severity of symptoms can range from person to person. Initially, symptoms may present as pain in the legs that begins during exercise and goes away within a few minutes of rest. As the disorder advances, this pain may be present during inactivity. With this condition, the leg muscles have to work harder to support the body with less oxygen and blood flow. Additional symptoms can include: coldness in the leg, cramps in the hip, leg and foot; sores on the leg or foot that do not heal; and weakness or numbness.
Chris Howerton, 47, suffered from constant back and hip pain for more than six years. It progressed to a point where it was difficult to walk a short distance, limiting mobility and activity. It wasn’t until early in 2021, after suffering a foot injury that did not heal properly that Howerton was referred to Dr. Horn at St. Vincent Healthcare. After Dr. Horn diagnosed the issue as PAD, Howerton underwent an aortic patch procedure in April. The procedure provided immediate relief.
“It is hard to explain the sensation,” said Howerton. “As soon as I came out of surgery, I had tingling and feeling in my legs that had not been there for a long time. I was ready to jump out of the bed. I went from having constant, intense pain to now being able to manage with just a couple of ibuprofen.”
While Howerton required surgery, that may not be necessary in all cases. St. Vincent Healthcare also offers a PAD rehabilitation program that focuses on physical therapy and lifestyle change. Beginning as a 12-week program, it may include education and individual therapy as well as a group therapy including, stretching, resistance training and strengthening. The goal of the program is to help patients progress to where they are able to become more independent, continue self-guided exercise therapy, and improve their PAD symptoms.
“Working with patients affected by PAD, the most important thing is that folks understand the symptoms they are experiencing and understand the risk factors,” said Karen Ashworth, clinical exercise physiologist and program coordinator for cardiac rehabilitation at St. Vincent Healthcare.
SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.