John Gresens, 58, of Odenton, began experiencing unfamiliar symptoms in his feet and legs. As a corrections officer for Anne Arundel County, he spends much of his work day on his feet.
"My feet started burning and tingling, and both my calves would get really tight and cramped after walking a few blocks," Mr. Gresens explains. "I would have to sit for a while to get the pressure off my feet and legs."
These frequent sitting breaks to relieve the pain became an interruption to his daily tasks, so he knew it was time to see a doctor.
"After I had an ultrasound done on my legs, my doctor referred me to the Vascular Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center," said Mr. Gresens.
Additional ultrasounds and sonograms in the Vascular Center's laboratory revealed a blockage in both legs above the knees. To determine the best treatment plan, Mr. Gresens underwent an arteriogram in the Vascular Center's technologically advanced endovascular suite.
"An arteriogram is a procedure used to take pictures of the arteries so we can see precise images of any arterial blockages or narrowing, assess blood flow as well as to assess potential target vessel for a bypass," says Mariano Arosemena, MD, vascular surgeon at UM BWMC. "Mr. Gresens' arteriogram revealed a long blockage in each leg stretching from the groin to just above the knee. Because his left leg had a more severe blockage that was causing him pain, he needed an open surgical procedure to bypass the long blockage artery on that leg."
Successful Bypass Graft Surgery Restores Blood Flow
Within several weeks, Mr. Gresens returned to UM BWMC for a bypass graft surgery with Dr. Arosemena.
"The procedure involved making small incisions at the groin and above the knee to access the diseased artery. Using prosthetic graft, we redirected the blood flow from the artery just before the blockage at the groin to a healthier one. This ensures he is receiving adequate circulation throughout his legs, relieving his pain, burning and cramping when walking," said Dr. Arosemena.
The bypass surgery was complete in two hours. Mr. Gresens spent several days in the hospital to make sure he was healthy enough to return home and walk painlessly again.
"Dr. Arosemena was really great about explaining everything to me and made sure I understood every step of the process," says Mr. Gresens. "I was back on my feet almost immediately and went back to work after two weeks. I feel great and don't have any more pain when walking."
Mr. Gresens will have yearly follow-ups with the Vascular Center to make sure his arteries remain healthy and to monitor the narrowed artery in his other leg, which will eventually require surgical intervention to prevent pain and further damage.
Preventing PAD and Vascular Disease
To prevent peripheral artery disease and other forms of vascular disease, Dr. Arosemena recommends making several healthy lifestyle changes.
"It is so important not to smoke and to eat a heart-healthy diet to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries," says Dr. Arosemena. "Diabetic patients should particularly take good care of their feet and watch out for loss of sensation or wound developments, which could signal vascular problems. In addition, everyone should have their blood pressure checked regularly and have routine check-ups with their physician to stay on top of any health changes that could signal vascular disease."
A vascular screening can let you know if you are at risk for PAD.