New treatment for peripheral artery disease decreases complications, allows for quicker recovery

An estimated 8.5 million people in US have PAD

Doctor. (Free-Photos from Pixabay.)

An estimated 8.5 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease, affecting approximately 12 to 20% of Americans over the age of 60.

It is a painful condition caused by a blockage in the arteries of the extremities, usually the legs. Just like blockages in the heart’s vessels, PAD is caused by a buildup of plaque and fatty material on the inner walls of the arteries in the extremities.

Not only does it make it difficult to walk, but PAD is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. It’s more common in African-Americans than other groups, and men are slightly more likely than women to develop PAD. The disease is also more common in smokers.

PAD symptoms may include leg pain or numbness, coldness in your lower leg or foot, and painful leg cramps.

For most patients with PAD, a minimally invasive procedure through the femoral artery -- located in the groin -- is the usual approach. However, for some patients who have already had stents in this area, or whose body type is not ideal for the traditional approach, a new option may be beneficial.

This was the case with Harry Morris, whose PAD got so severe, he could no longer walk, and sleeping was difficult since he had little circulation when lying down. His hobbies of fishing and restoring old cars were on hold, not to mention his overall quality of life suffering greatly.

Fortunately, Morris’ cardiologist, Dr. Bharat Gummadi, at Baptist Medical Center South, was determined to find a solution. After attempting to clear the veins through the usual femoral approach without success, he looked into other options.

Gummadi had previous success in helping heart patients with blockages by going through a radial approach, which involves inserting a catheter into an artery in the wrist and guiding it to the blocked artery in the heart to clear the plaque.

Overcoming a physical barrier

The obstacle Gummadi faced was not having a catheter long enough to reach from the wrist down to Morris’s lower left leg. But he was determined to find a way to make it happen, and was able to find a medical supply company that could provide the right size catheter.

“Dr. Gummadi was determined to find a solution,” said Morris, who is not only walking pain-free now, but is back to his usual lifestyle.

Morris was the first patient Gummadi performed the radial procedure on for PAD.

“This approach through the wrist decreases complications and allows for quicker recovery,” Gummadi said. “With the radial approach, patients can sit up and get walking more quickly, which is vital to recovery.”

The procedure requires only local anesthesia.

After one night at Baptist South, Morris was able to go home. Many patients can go home the same day after radial intervention.

“Dr. Gummadi got me straightened out,” said Morris. “I feel fortunate to be the first patient he performed this approach on.”

Since Morris’ procedure, Gummadi plans to add the radial approach to his toolbox to help more patients recover from PAD.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of PAD, appointments are available at Baptist Heart Specialists by calling 904-720-0799.