Aug. 29, 2011 - Henry Gibbs, 58, is a ballroom dance instructor, but he was
forced to hang up his dancing shoes when a circulation condition, common among older adults, caused severe leg pain and cramping.
“My legs were so bad I couldn’t do anything,” says Gibbs, of Saginaw, Mich.
“I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t cut the grass. I was a dance instructor who couldn’t dance.”
“Peripheral arterial disease is similar in many ways to heart disease where
atherosclerotic plaque builds up in the arteries of the legs,” says Paul Michael Grossman, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at the U-M
“This can be caused by a build-up of cholesterol, can be related to risk
factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension and having elevated cholesterol and there are genetic factors that also probably play a role
in development and progression of PAD,” he says.
The difference between peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, and heart disease
is the blockages are outside your heart, usually in the legs. While PAD itself is not life threatening, it does greatly affect quality of
life, and without proper medical management can lead to heart attack or stroke.
“We’ve brought together experts from multiple fields, all who are focused on
the treatment and management of patients with severe peripheral arterial disease. These include experts from vascular surgery, vascular
medicine, cardiology, interventional radiology and allied health care professionals who are all working together to take care of our
patients,” the U-M cardiologist explains.
For some patients, eliminating risk factors for PAD can help reduce symptoms.
For others, medications may be added.
If those fail to improve symptoms, patients can undergo a minimally invasive
revascularization procedure, such as stents or
angioplasty, to clear the blockage and improve blood flow. Better blood flow can reduce or eliminate
symptoms and reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke.
The U-M is the coordinating center for the cardiovascular consortium and its
registry of patients who have had vascular interventions. The consortium works to improve patient outcomes with a special focus on reducing
complications, and improving safety, efficacy and appropriateness of procedures.
“I’m glad I had the procedure done. My life is so much better,” Gibbs says.”
My legs are better, I feel better, my wife feels better because I can go and do things that I couldn’t do before. I feel like a new man with
new legs,” he says.
“I said I wanted to dance again and I’m dancing.”