DALLAS – One in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 experiences peripheral artery disease, clogged arteries, usually in the legs, which can cause extreme pain and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. Now, with a new approach to leg stents, some patients not only walk again, they can run.
73-year old Ellen Bergami is running competitively again, but a year ago she experienced so much pain in her leg that she was facing amputation.
“I cannot tell you how much pain you are in cause it’s like a tourniquet on your leg shutting down and you’re getting no blood,” said Bergami.
She was experiencing an acute form of peripheral artery disease that was shutting down the blood flow to her right leg. After a series of failed procedures, she was still in constant pain and addicted to fentanyl.
“I think that she was at a point where she had so much pain in her foot that I think if she wanted, or required an amputation, she would have been relieved," said Dr. Mirza Baig, a vascular surgeon at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Irving, Texas.
Doctors replaced Bergami’s old metal stents with fabric stents. Drug-coated balloons at the ends keep the femoral artery open. These new stents have lasted more than a year and a half and changed Bergami’s life.
“I think drug-coated balloons are going to turn out to be a medical breakthrough. I think that the data so far is pretty good,” said Dr. Baig.
Recently, Bergami ran a 5-K and finished third in her age group.
“My medal is from November 2016 and it is an honor to wear it and to put it on to know that I did it,” she says.
The drug-coated balloons, approved by the FDA in 2015, are showing good outcomes and reducing the need for repeat procedures.
TREATMENTS: Treatments for PAD do exist. They focus on lowering the level of pain the patient might be going through, as well as stopping the progression of atherosclerosis to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The easiest treatments involve lifestyle changes like quitting smoking (if the patient does smoke), eating healthy and exercising. When lifestyle changes don’t help, medicine might be prescribed by the doctor in order to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and to control pain and other symptoms. Other forms of treatment may be:
- Bypass surgery
- Thrombolytic therapy
- Supervised exercise programs
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.