New Dosher Memorial Hospital PAD Rehabilitation Program Now Covered by Insurance
While at the doctor's office for a check-up, a poster on the wall caught the attention of 74-year-old Sharon Jordan. It was of a woman walking on the beach. The caption read, "I could never have done this before," and listed below, were symptoms for Peripheral Artery Disease, also known as PAD. "My doctor came out and he said 'ok, we're done!' and I said, 'Nope we're not, see that poster? That's me! I've got every one of those symptoms'." The primary symptoms of PAD are severe leg pain and cramping when walking, even short distances, and numbness in the legs. "They tested me, and sure enough, I had PAD," she said.
The bad news is PAD is serious business. It's when the arteries that supply blood to the limbs get clogged and just like when the arteries that supply blood to the heart get clogged, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. The good news is, Dosher Memorial Hospital's Cardiac Rehab unit located inside its state-of-the-art Wellness Center just launched a brand-new PAD rehabilitation program that's saving patients from having to get surgery. For the first time, this 36-session program is fully covered by insurance. Mrs. Jordan is the Wellness Center's very first PAD program patient.
"She's been so enthusiastic, she said 'I got a pamphlet from my insurance that says they now cover this. Do you offer it?' And, as a matter of fact, we just happened to have started that program right before she walked through our doors," said Dosher Cardiac Rehab Manager, Natalie Swiger, MSN, RN, CCRP.
"Only in the last year has the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) seen enough evidence that a rehabilitation program like the one we started here would benefit those patients with PAD," Swiger said.
Using treadmills, the center's 200-foot indoor track and strengthening equipment, this targeted combination of incremental cardio and strength training approach is designed to gradually increase patients' activity levels. Just four weeks into the PAD program, Mrs. Jordan is already seeing significant results. "I could not walk 50 steps before without experiencing pain. I'm up to walking 20 minutes on the treadmill! I couldn't walk five minutes on the treadmill when I started," Mrs. Jordan said.
One in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has PAD, affecting roughly 8.5 million people in the United States. The pain and cramping in the legs from PAD happens while walking or doing some type of activity. The term is claudication. Once the activity is stopped, the pain goes away, so most chalk it up to the natural process of aging. However, if PAD goes unchecked, it can turn into gangrene and lead to amputation. PAD also gets increasingly worse with time and can become debilitating. "With this program, we are helping people walk through that discomfort level by guiding them on a specific exercise routine and mixing things up, doing strength training in between the walking and that builds and builds on itself progressively," said Swiger.
Mrs. Jordan's sister also had PAD and had to have surgery to put two stents in her legs. The PAD rehabilitation program at Dosher will prevent Mrs. Jordan from having to go through surgery. "I can walk farther on the beach now, and I can play soccer in the back yard with my grandchildren for a lot longer than before," Mrs. Jordan said.
"We hope that by the end of the program people will have a reduction in their symptoms, a reduction in their pain, will decrease their chances of surgery and a loss of a limb and increase their overall quality of life," said Swiger. The 36 session 12-week PAD program does require a physician referral. The program is managed by a team of certified Cardiac Rehab nurses and exercise physiologists and takes place at the Dosher Wellness Center located at 3009 Medical Plaza Ln. in Southport. Nutritional and lifestyle counseling is included in the program, and the program is covered by most insurance providers.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 910-454-1234 or visit Dosher.org/clinics.
Mrs. Jordan says the PAD program staff is fabulous. "They monitor me, they are very professional, they work very cohesively as a unit. I feel like I walked in a patient and I will leave a friend," she said.