Wheeling Hospital Offers Rehab Program for Peripheral Artery Disease

Photo Provided Jennifer Kutrovac, clinical exercise physiologist at the Howard Long Wellness Center, walks with Fred Connors of Bridgeport.

A supervised exercise program for patients with peripheral artery disease is now offered by Wheeling Hospital. Provided at the hospital’s Howard Long Wellness Center, the PAD program is the only one of its kind in the area.

PAD is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. For those with PAD, their extremities — usually the legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking.

The disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to the heart and brain, as well as the legs.

The exercise program is performed three times a week in a cardiovascular rehabilitation setting, in one-hour sessions and usually for 12 weeks. The session, which begins at 1:30 p.m., includes a five-minute warm-up and cool-down period.

The initial goal of the early training sessions is to accumulate 15 minutes or more of total walking time, including the warm up and cool down. The eventual goal is to progress to a cumulative exercise session of 50 minutes, including rest periods, as well as the warm-up and cool-down periods, for a total of 60 minutes per session.

“A program of supervised rehabilitation is considered a primary treatment with PAD and intermittent claudication,” said Becky Frome, director of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation at Wheeling Hospital. “Our team consists of exercise physiologists and nurses who are trained to develop exercise programs and provide education for individuals with PAD.”

Education and counseling about vascular risk factors include PAD, ankle-brachial index, foot care, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and walking.

One program participant who benefited greatly from the therapy is Fred Connors of Bridgeport. In late 2012, Connors had a stent placed in his leg because of PAD. At that time, he was told other blockages existed and more stents would be required.

“But during cardiac rehab in 2013, following open heart surgery, I learned the importance of exercise, especially walking,” Connors said. “Applying those principles as part of my lifestyle change, I was told just six months later that no stents were necessary because the previously discovered blockages in my legs had dissolved. I am convinced the new PAD program located at Howard Long Wellness Center will produce similar results for anyone who incorporates it in a sincere lifestyle change, including healthy diet, exercise and not smoking.”

A referral order is needed from a physician to begin the program.