Ripon Medical Center now offers peripheral artery disease exercise therapy

Shelly Haberman
PAD team

Ripon Medical Center is now offering help for individuals who are facing health difficulties due to peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is a slow and progressive circulation disorder. Narrowing, blockage or spasms in a blood vessel can cause PAD.

PAD may affect any blood vessel outside of the heart including the arteries, veins or lymphatic vessels. Organs supplied by these vessels, such as the brain and legs, may not get enough blood flow for proper function. However, the legs and feet are most commonly affected.

Ripon Medical Center started providing PAD supervised exercise therapy following Medicare coverage approval.

“We have seen many current patients who are experiencing PAD who we know will benefit from this new service,” says Lacey Bruce, EP, CCRP, Ripon Medical Center Cardiopulmonary Rehab lead. “There are individuals who have not experienced cardiac issues that are facing PAD symptoms. Our team is very passionate about our approach in treating health concerns through exercise, and when funding was in place through Medicare, it only made sense to get started.”    

Bruce is joined by other exercise physiologists Joe Clayton and Isaac Greuel. All have received continuing education to effectively treat PAD patients.

The most common cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs. It also decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Blood clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the blood vessel and block off major arteries.

Bruce explains that individuals may experience painful leg cramping that occurs with exercise and is relieved by rest (intermittent claudication). During rest, the muscles need less blood flow, so the pain disappears. It may occur in one or both legs depending on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery.

Individuals who believe they are experiencing these symptoms should visit their primary care provider, who upon diagnosis can make a referral.

The rehab process starts with an initial assessment and evaluation followed by 12 weeks of therapy three times a week.

“During these exercise sessions, patients complete intervals of treadmill walking and rest periods, while we monitor their blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation along with their pain level,” Bruce explains, “We also monitor during rest and recovery times. Supervised exercise training helps gradually build up leg strength and improving walking ability. This reduces the impact of PAD symptoms and helps our patients retain their independence.”

Exercise training can also improve blood flow in the legs and may even reduce inflammation (the body's response to injury) that contributes to atherosclerosis, the gradual narrowing of the arteries that causes PAD.

            PAD treatment is important to help avoid future complications which result because of decreased or absent blood flow. Such complications may include: amputation (loss of a limb), poor wound healing, restricted mobility due to pain or discomfort, severe pain in the affected extremity and stroke.

            To learn more, call Ripon Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Rehab team at (920) 745-3655.

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