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Could leg pain save your life?

April 05, 2018

Could leg pain save your life?

We all feel the occasional ache or pain in our arms or legs, but if you’re experiencing nagging discomfort, it could be an early warning sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD).  It’s estimated that over 8.5 million people in the United States suffer from PAD. It’s a disease caused by blocked arteries which restrict blood flow, causing pain and damage to muscles and other tissue. Diagnosing and treating PAD can be challenging, but early treatment could save your aching arms and legs—and even your life.

A bruise or sore that does not heal may also be a sign of PAD. The care team at the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Sycamore Medical Center can help determine the underlying cause and best course of treatment. The center’s medical director, Louis Pilati, MD, says “Once a wound has developed, I act as a gatekeeper to investigate whether there are other things which could be complicating these wounds.”  Next steps often include consulting with a cardiologist, like Ammar Safar, MD, FACP, vice chair of cardiology at Kettering Medical Center.

According to Dr. Safar, PAD cases require a broad perspective, “We want to optimize the medical therapy and risk factors, not just to prevent amputations and save the limbs, but also because we are trying to prevent a heart attack or stroke.” Cardiologists like Dr. Safar can address blood flow problems and coordinate with the patient’s primary care physician or other specialists to treat underlying causes and risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

Successful treatment

PAD is a whole-body condition that can require advanced medical technology to resolve and the latest treatments for PAD are available at Kettering Health Network:

  • Balloon angioplasty, which is used to open clogged arteries
  • Bypass surgery to replace more severely damaged artery sections
  • Lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise
  • Drug therapies to treat persistent underlying causes and conditions

These treatments can have a large impact on a patient’s lifestyle, sometimes preventing the loss of a limb.

One patient came in for amputation because of a deep wound to the tendons on his left ankle. Dr. Safar's team saved his leg using advanced procedures to clear the constricted blood vessels. “I opened up two out of three blood vessels in his leg,” Dr. Safar explains. “The patient has both feet; he’s walking, and he’s doing well.”

Find out more about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of peripheral artery disease at a Kettering Health Night Out, Tuesday, May 1.

Light refreshments and a mini health fair will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by an information session at 6 p.m. The event is free, but seating is limited. Click here or call (937) 558-3988 to register.