Lawmakers are bringing Peripheral Artery Disease awareness to Congress
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Knowledge is power. In the case of the nearly 20 million Americans affected by peripheral artery disease (PAD), something as simple as education, awareness and an understanding of symptoms and treatment options can help prevent thousands of patients from enduring the worst outcome of this disease: lower limb amputation. 

Estimates currently suggest an estimated 200,000 Americans lose one of their limbs every year to a non-traumatic amputation, attributable to preventable vascular diseases. PAD not only results in tens of thousands of preventable amputations, but also disproportionately impacts ethnic and racial minorities and costs taxpayers billions in additional spending.

PAD is caused by the narrowing or blockage of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the leg. Individuals who smoke, are over the age of 65, or have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol are at an increased risk of developing PAD. Because these risk factors are more common among African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, they are two to four times more likely as whites to develop PAD and experience an amputation, making PAD a disease that disproportionately impacts minority and underserved communities.

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Although PAD is a very treatable and manageable condition, if left unaddressed, it can progress to a point where an amputation is the only option. Because not all medical professionals, providers, and patients are familiar with PAD, the most at risk patients sometimes never seek medical attention to undergo screening or learn their treatment options. By making screenings for at-risk patients a priority, patients would be better advised and educated on the best treatment options including minimally invasive revascularization procedures, which can prevent amputation all together.  

This is where lawmakers have the opportunity and responsibility to step in and advance policies to prevent avoidable amputations by creating a platform of dedicated awareness and education about PAD within Congress.

Fortunately, this PAD Awareness Month, Reps. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) have launched the first ever Congressional PAD Caucus. The bipartisan lawmakers have been champions for the PAD community, recognizing the need to educate Congress and communities about PAD while supporting legislative solutions to improve PAD research, education, and treatment, with the goal of preventing non-traumatic amputations due to PAD and other related diseases.

The establishment of this caucus is a great first step and we look forward to policies which, among other things, encourage communication across disciplines to enable care coordination and ensure patients are assessed for all treatment options before they receive amputation. Further, we hope to work with the caucus to urge the administration to convene an intragovernmental workgroup to develop a standardized model for amputation reduction, which can be modeled after existing programs including the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Preventing Amputations in Veterans Everywhere (PAVE) program. By doing so, together we can take significant steps towards eliminating PAD-related non-traumatic amputations.

This September, I applaud the lawmakers in Congress who are calling for a better, more comprehensive understanding of PAD and the need for policies to end preventable limb loss in America.

Jeffrey G. Carr, MD, FACC, is an Interventional Cardiologist and Endovascular Specialist. He is the founding and past president of the Outpatient Endovascular and Interventional Society, a multispecialty medical society. He is also a member of the CardioVascular Coalition, a group dedicated to raising awareness for PAD and amputation prevention. Trained at UCLA Medical Center, he practices full time in a single specialty group in Tyler, Texas.