October 3, 2008
Knowing your risk for Peripheral Artery Disease

Nearly 75 percent of at-risk patients have never heard of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), yet nearly nine million Americans have this disorder, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and death. To help raise awareness about PAD, the MGH Vascular Center hosted several events to educate patients and staff as part of National PAD Awareness Month in September.

PAD is caused when the arteries in the legs become narrow or clogged with fatty deposits, resulting in reduced blood flow to the legs and feet. The condition can cause foot or toe pain that may impair the ability to walk; however, PAD is often asymptomatic, so people may not be aware of the problem and its associated risks.

vascular screening"Once diagnosed, the risk of leg complications from PAD is low because it is a very treatable condition," says Michael R. Jaff, DO, medical director of the Vascular Center. "The problem is that many people are unaware they are living with this disease."

LIFESAVING SCREENING: Kathleen Hannnon, RN, MS, RVT, RDMS, technical director in the Vascular Diagnostic Lab, gives Mary Barry, RN, of Same Day Surgery, her ABI screening.

On Sept. 16, vascular technologists from the Vascular Center offered ankle brachial index (ABI) screenings, which are simple, noninvasive tests for PAD that compare blood pressure in the arms and ankles to determine if there is a blockage or narrowing of the arteries in the lower extremities. Eighty-three people were screened during the event, and those with a potential problem were referred to their physician for further evaluation.

On Sept. 17, the center hosted a "Lunch and Learn" talk titled "What You Need to Know about PAD" with Jaff; Stephan Wicky, MD; Kenneth Rosenfield, MD; and Richard Cambria, MD. The group discussed PAD diagnosis and treatment options, which include medication, minimally invasive endovascular treatment and surgery. They also addressed the obstacles to creating awareness of this disorder.

"People may not be as attuned to things they don't perceive as serious as heart attack and stroke, which are commonly associated with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease," says Rosenfield. "But, it is clear that PAD does carry these same risks, so patients and their physicians need to be vigilant."

For more information about Peripheral Artery Disease, call (877) 644-8346 or visit www.massgeneral.org/vascularcenter

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