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Beacon specialists care for a proud grandfather and devoted “dog dad” who conquers peripheral artery disease

Steve Dewey and Tegan

It was in July of 2023 that Steve Dewey first began feeling a soreness in the back of his right leg. Over the course of just a couple weeks, it went from a sense of mild irritation to a pain severe enough to keep this active 75-year-old man from walking more than 100 feet at a time.

“Have you ever pulled a muscle? This was ten times worse than any pulled muscle I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was like someone had kicked me with a steel-toed boot. Kicked me hard.”

A proactive and practical man, Dewey isn’t one to ignore a medical problem. So he promptly saw his primary care provider. At first, it seemed like he might have a knee problem. But after an X-ray and Doppler ultrasound to view the bones and soft tissue in his leg, the problem became clear.

An artery in his leg was completely blocked, and the pain he felt was from a lack of blood flow to his lower leg. That explained why Dewey would experience disabling pain even with slightly increased activity — his calf muscles couldn’t get enough blood — and the pain would ease when he sat down to rest.

“I could go to the store and get to the back for a carton of milk,” Dewey recalled. “But I’d have to rest before I could head back to the front of the store.” The pain was so bothersome that whenever he was going somewhere, Dewey had to calculate how far he would have to walk.

And his regular walks with Tegan, his adopted Boston terrier-Australian cattle dog mix, definitely suffered. “My dog was very unhappy with me,” he said.

Dewey went to see Dr. Michael Ginsburg, Beacon Medical Group Interventional Radiology and Vascular Specialists, and they talked for more than 30 minutes.

“Mr. Dewey was experiencing vascular claudication symptoms, which is a common way patients suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD) present,” said Dr. Ginsburg.

Dr. Michael Ginsburg

A holistic approach

“My approach to taking care of patients is holistic, treating the whole person. With that in mind, my number one priority when meeting patients suffering from PAD is to educate them and make sure they understand the big picture, such as the risk factors associated with PAD, the treatment plan, etc.,” Dr. Ginsburg said. “That is exactly what we talked about during my first visit with Mr. Dewey.”

PAD is a common condition that affects approximately 240 million people worldwide. Due to an aging population and a diabetes epidemic, the prevalence of PAD is rapidly rising. Unfortunately, the symptoms of PAD can vary, and the diagnosis is frequently missed, leading to delays in treatment, Dr. Ginsburg said.

“Since patients with PAD are at an increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, we first try to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attacks in our patients,” Dr. Ginsburg said. “This includes therapies to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, such as statins, blood-pressure reducing medications and anti-thrombotic drugs. Treatments to facilitate smoking cessation and control blood sugar, if relevant, and an exercise program are also critical in reducing cardiovascular risk.”

Dewey learned that peripheral artery disease can be quite serious. It typically occurs because of plaque buildup and may not be noticeable for years. But when patients experience recurring pain, especially when resting, it’s an indication that the arterial blockage is severe.

In addition to PAD increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack, patients with severe PAD have a high risk for developing wounds that won’t heal and even tissue damage severe enough to lead to amputation, if not treated promptly.

“We categorize this most severe manifestation of PAD as critical limb threatening ischemia, CLTI, which is characterized by lower extremity pain at rest, wounds and gangrene,” Dr. Ginsburg said. At one year, CLTI is associated with a 20% mortality rate and a 50% risk of major amputation in patients who do not undergo revascularization, a procedure to restore blood flow.

The decision to attempt revascularization in patients with CLTI is based on a combination of factors, including patient characteristics, the severity of their symptoms, anatomic considerations, and patient and physician preferences.

Having taken all those factors into consideration, Dr. Ginsburg determined that Dewey was a good candidate for a minimally invasive endovascular revascularization procedure to restore the blood flow to his leg. He performed the outpatient procedure at Memorial Hospital in August.

A big improvement

“I went in and Dr. Ginsburg cleaned the artery out,” Dewey said. “The care team was very professional. I was impressed with everybody.” His leg felt better right away, and he was back home later that same day.

Now this proud grandfather is getting back to boating on the river, visiting with his granddaughters, and, of course, walking his beloved Tegan. Dewey joked, “The first thing Dr. Ginsburg asked when I talked to him a few days after the surgery, was: ‘Is your dog liking you better now?’”

On a more serious note, Steve Dewey added that his experience has been a good one overall: “They’ve been really good about staying in touch with me after the procedure and answering questions. It was very positive.”

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Click here to read more about the Beacon Vascular and Interventional Radiology team who cared for Steve Dewey. Our collaborative multi-specialty team provides preventative, medical, surgical, and endovascular treatments to improve vascular health and treat peripheral and cerebral vascular disease.

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