If you’ve been following our blog, you know there is much to learn about peripheral artery disease or PAD. The condition is insidious in that its symptoms are not always obvious. When they do become apparent, a patient may have already progressed to a more severe stage requiring significant intervention and ultimately leading to a higher potential for disability.
When we talk about PAD, we usually discuss its detection and treatment. This makes sense because it is estimated that two out of every three PAD patients don’t know they have it. Getting the word out and educating patients about their risks is essential.
However, once we have started treating PAD, many patients rightly want to understand more about how the treatment is going and whether it has been successful. There are a couple of ways to do that.
To get the initial PAD diagnosis, patients typically undergo a quick and easy test known as the ankle-brachial index or ABI. This test can be performed manually, but these days we have superior technology that allows for a quick diagnosis using a non-invasive medical device, much like a blood pressure monitor for the arms and legs. The ABI remains useful after the procedure or medical treatment to offer an objective measurement of improvement. In other words, a second ABI test can give us a pretty good idea of improving blood flow to your extremities.
What About Subjective Improvements?
It’s easy to tell a patient that they have improved based on a series of numbers that a machine has generated. Indeed, this is an essential piece of the puzzle from a diagnostic and treatment perspective. However, PAD has a profound effect on a patient’s mobility and lifestyle, And the readout on the machine does not always align with the patient’s level of disability or discomfort. In other words, patients may have significant PAD, according to their ABI, but their symptoms are not severe. Similarly, the ABI can show tremendous improvement, but some patients may still experience discomfort in the legs during activity.
These patients may benefit from a straightforward test that only requires simple measurements as they walk on the treadmill. This test measures how long it takes for the pain from PAD to begin after starting to walk. Ideally, it takes longer for the pain to manifest, which offers another data point on how successful treatment has been. This is a comparative test but not an accurate way to diagnose PAD, so we simply use it, when applicable, as a way to measure success.
Ultimately, with this patient-centered focus on the real-life effects of PAD, our physicians and you, as our patient, can create a treatment plan that best addresses any remaining concerns or discomfort you may have. Remember that undiagnosed PAD can cause significant muscle and nerve degradation, so post-treatment patients must continue a new and improved lifestyle, including better diet and exercise. Patients will be referred to a neurologist for any nerve pain they may still experience.
Of course, there’s only so much we can do to address chronic issues resulting from untreated PAD, but we have more tools at our disposal than ever before to assist you in regaining your mobility and getting back to enjoying life.
Please schedule a consultation with us to learn more about PAD and what can be done.