By Nicole Cross – Co-Anchor KTBS 3 News & Health Correspondent
James Bracken lives in Simms, Texas. He’s suffered a stroke and been managing heart disease for years. He didn’t realize he had another serious medical condition to battle.
Smith has been diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease, a condition that primarily affects the arteries of the legs and occurs when too much plaque restricts or halts blood flow to them.
Dr. Jeffery DeCaprio of Texarkana, Texas, was repairing DeCaprio’s heart valve when he discovered blockage in Bracken’s artery was causing his leg pain.
“He looked at it and said it was a completely closed artery, which surprised me,” Bracken recalled.
It’s a surprise for many of the eight million people in the United States who suffer with PAD, many of whom don’t even know they have it.
“Right now, for every one patient who’s symptomatic, there’s another three people out there who are undiagnosed,” DeCaprio said.
It’s a big concern, especially since PAD can lead to amputation or death.
“A lot of patients who have PAD will have very severe life-limiting clautication when they’re unable to walk, or even limb-threatening conditions where they could have ulcers or area of breakdown in the skin that could eventually lead to amputation,” DeCaprio said.
Bracken wasn’t taking any chances. Within a week, he underwent surgery to open his artery.
Bracken was treated with an atherectomy, a device to clear blockage from an artery, DeCaprio said. It was an outpatient procedure that did not require any incisions or sutures.
Bracken said he’s noticed a big difference since having the surgery.
“I can feel the pulse in there again,” he said. “No pain when I’m moving. I can lift it.”
Screening for PAD involves a simple, non-invasive outpatient test called a Doppler. Talk to your physician to determine if this test is appropriate for you.
Starting in January 2018, Medicare will pay for supervised exercise therapy for patients with PAD to keep the disease from progressing.