Why you should talk to your doctor about PAD

PAD, or peripheral artery disease, affects about 8 million Americans. It can start as early as the age of 20, and becomes more common as one gets older. By age 65, about 12 to 20 percent of the population has some degree of vascular disease. Early diagnosis is critical, as people with PAD have a four to five times higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, PAD often goes undiagnosed as symptoms are often mistaken for something else.

So how do you know if you’re at risk for PAD? “Unfortunately, with PAD, sometimes there are factors that the patient can control and sometimes not. Sometimes it runs in the family and your risk factors are genetic,” said Dr. Jeffrey Elbich. “Other risk factors include advanced age, male gender, smoking, especially those with a long smoking history, and people with other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension.”

Dr. Elbich explained some symptoms to watch out for. “A typical patient will describe walking for a few block and being affected by sudden painful cramps in the legs and thighs that resolve after a period of rest.” He continued, “For every one person who has symptoms, there are three to four who have no symptoms at all. If you have some of the risk factors we just mentioned, it’s important to talk to your doctor and be screened.”

The screening involves a review of the patient’s medical history and any symptoms, followed by a physical exam. “You physician will preform an ABI, or ankle brachial index which measures the blood pressure in your arms, compared to the blood pressure in your ankles,” said Dr. Elbich. “If it’s significantly different, that indicates a blockage in your legs and is indicative of PAD.”

Many peripheral vascular conditions can be diagnosed and treated on an outpatient basis by the interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons here at VCU Baird Vascular Institute. If you want to learn more about peripheral artery disease and treatment options, wish to discuss symptoms or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600.

Port Care 101 – 5 things you need to remember

Many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated injections in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports that make your care, and your life, easier.

There are a few things you should keep in mind if you’ve had a port procedure.

First, make sure to follow all the detailed instructions that were given to you for taking care of the catheter of port.

Secondly, take extra precautions avoid touching the tip of the catheter and always wash your hands before touching the area for bandage changes or cleaning. Also, it is ok to ask the nurse or any medical professional that is accessing your port to wash their hands in front of you and to always wear gloves.

Watch out for any sign of infections like redness or swelling or other issues such as leaks or blockages. Notify your physician immediately if you experience any of those issues.

Don’t be afraid to contact your physician if you have a question. We specialize in placing a wide variety of vein access devices and are here to address your concerns.

Finally – live your life. Having a port is supposed to make your life a little easier while undergoing treatment. With a few modifications, you can expect to resume relatively normal activities during this period of treatment.

Traveling while undergoing cancer treatment

Baird traveling with cancer

The summer travel season is upon us, and many are planning vacation time to beaches, or the mountains, or destinations beyond with family and friends. If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, it’s no different; you need time to recharge from the day-to-day stresses of life, and especially your medical condition. When undergoing cancer treatment, there are a few extra precautions and considerations for the traveler, but that shouldn’t stop you from traveling or enjoying a vacation away from home. Careful planning can ensure you have a great – yet safe – experience.

First, get the OK from your medical team before making any travel plans. You’ll want to talk about the location, how you plan to get there, and how close you’ll be to a medical facility in the event of an emergency. Depending on your condition, proximity of a treatment center may factor in on your vacation destination. It’s important to include family members or other travel companions in these conversations so they can be informed and feel comfortable about traveling with you.

Secondly, consider how you’re going to get there. Some people with cancer may not be able to travel by plane because of the changes in oxygen levels and air pressure that occur during the flight. Changes in air pressure can sometimes cause swelling in your extremities, which could be problematic for a person with cancer. Also, sitting for long periods of time can put anyone at risk for a blood clot, but it’s even more of a concern for someone with cancer. Also, if you’re receiving chemotherapy, your immune system is compromised, making traveling through airports and sitting in crowded planes a risky endeavor.

If you are well enough to travel by plane, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some forms of radiation used for radiological exams and treatment may trigger airport radiation detectors. Some chemicals used may linger in the body for up to 3 months. If you plan to fly after such an exam or treatment, ask your doctor for a letter that identifies the procedure, the type and amount of radioactive material used, the date of the procedure, and the likely duration of detectable radioactivity. Be sure to carry this letter with you when you travel.

When booking your flight – plan ahead so that you can have seats with extra legroom if you need it, or ensure that your travel companion can be seated next to you. Also, notify the airline in advance if you think you may need oxygen.

Research your destination and locate a cancer center, and emergency center far ahead of time, just in case something goes wrong. If those aren’t available, (if you’re on a cruise, for example), notify the staff where you’re staying of your condition to help facilitate their cooperation in the event of an emergency.

Check your insurance policy to see if treatment away from your normal care center is included. You may want to consider a short-term travelers policy for additional piece of mind.

Make sure you have written documentation for on your condition, treatment regimen, and medications, and keep it with you. This is also important if you have an IV port or other internal device so you have documents to show security screeners. You also might consider getting a medical alert bracelet. If you require syringes for medication or portable oxygen tanks, you may need a note or form signed by your doctor for these items to be allowed on a plane.

When planning, keep in mind that certain destinations require vaccinations prior to entry. Speak with your physician about whether or not this is something your body will tolerate with other medications you are on, or with a weakened immune system.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, take it easy and enjoy the moment. Don’t overdo sightseeing or shopping excursions and listen to your body when it’s telling you it needs rest. Relax – and enjoy!

I’m interested in getting rid of the spider veins on my legs before summer. What can you do to help me? How long does treatment take?

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About half of all Americans over the age of 50 suffer from varicose veins that make walking and standing difficult. Although more common as you age, varicose veins and spider veins are seen in 20% of American adults.

Spider veins and varicose veins are more common in women, especially after weight gain, including pregnancy. Veins are responsible for carrying blood to the heart and lungs. Veins have a type of “valve” that function only one way. This prevents the flow of blood back into the veins. If this one-way valve is weakened, the blood flows back into the veins causing the veins to get congested. They become enlarged which results in the formation of varicose veins or spider veins.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they are smaller. They are often red or blue and are closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. They can look like tree branches or spider webs with their short jagged lines and can cover a very small area or very large areas. Spider veins are usually easier to treat than varicose veins using sclerotherapy or laser vein treatment.

Sclerotherapy is a procedure where an injection is used to treat spider veins. The sclerotherapy procedure uses an extremely tiny needle to inject the vein with a solution that shrinks the vein. As the vein shrinks, blood is channeled to deeper veins, lessening the appearance of the spider vein on the skin of the surface. The vast majority of patients who have sclerotherapy will experience significant improvement in the appearance of their veins.

Surface laser therapy is another treatment option for spider veins that delivers pulses of light energy. This surface laser therapy causes the blood within the vein to coagulate, eventually destroying the spider vein, which is later reabsorbed by the body. Blood flow is then redirected to veins deeper below the skin’s surface.

Predicting the number of sclerotherapy or surface laser treatments needed to clear or improve your spider veins is difficult. Each vein may need to be injected one to five times, or more, over a period of weeks or months.

The total number of spider vein treatment sessions needed depends on the amount and severity of the veins. Average treatment is three to five sessions, however, severe cases may require as many as 10 or more.

“Sclerotherapy and laser therapy do not prevent development of new spider veins over the years,” said Dr. Brian Strife. “Standing occupations, pregnancy and high estrogen states may increase the likelihood that spider veins will appear. Many people will require additional treatments from time to time to keep their legs clear.”

Improvement is usually seen over a period of weeks or months. Smaller veins can disappear after the first treatment session. Multiple areas can be treated during each session, reducing the total number of sessions required.

 

Vascular disease runs in my family. What are some things I can do to stay healthy?

 

Vascular disease is the general term for conditions that affect the blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke and coronary artery disease.

Vascular disease is not limited to older adults; it can strike anyone at any age, at any time. If there is a family history of vascular disease, patients should be especially diligent to stay healthy.

You can improve your overall health and risk of developing vascular disease by following these health guidelines.

  • Don’t smoke. And if you do smoke, stop immediately. This also goes for other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, pipes and smokeless tobacco
  • Adopt healthy eating habits, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Avoid excess sugar, sodium, fat and red meat
  • Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes, four to six times per week
  • Reduce stress, through exercise, meditation or other efforts
  • If you are a diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control
  • Take medications if you need them to help lower your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure
  • Get regular checkups from your doctor, and make sure your doctor knows of your family history

 

 

Sources:          Vascular Cures, MedicineNet.com

 

VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute – The History

VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute was made possible by the generous donation of Jane B. Baird Hyde, who passed on the building and land to VCU Health in memory of her late husband, Charles L. Baird Jr., M.D. This resulted in the opening of VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute in October 2011.

Virginia Heart Institute (1972-2010)

Virginia Heart Institute was established in 1972, by Charles L. Baird, Jr. MD, to prove that outpatient coronary arteriography is a safe method to find high-risk coronary disease early. Patients could then receive the care and education needed to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest and myocardial infarction at the first signs of heart disease.

Charles Lewis Baird Jr., M.D. (1931-2008)

“I did what I came to do.” ~Dr. Baird

Charles Lewis BairdDr. Charles Lewis Baird, Jr., MD was a pioneering cardiologist and the founder and director of the Virginia Heart Institute, previously located in the building that now houses VCU Health’s Baird Vascular Institute.

Baird’s lifelong mission was to help people. He was ahead of the game in cardiac care and his “outside of the box” approaches helped develop care so many would not have to wait a year for a cardiac catheterization to find blockages.

Baird’s frustration with the standards of care – developed in the 1960s – motivated him to find new ways to diagnose cardiac disease early so that they can medically manage and promote lifestyle changes for a healthier heart. This approach helped patients remain stable and in many cases avoided angioplasty or surgery.

Baird then opened the Virginia Heart Institute — the first licensed outpatient hospital and the first freestanding cardiac catheterization laboratory in the U.S. right here in Richmond, VA. He modified the cardiac catheterization procedure, taking it from a three-day procedure to a short three-hours. Taking this technique nationwide would save billions of dollars and more importantly, countless lives.

This pioneer passed away in 2008 and on his deathbed, Baird told a local minister that he did what he came to do before departing this life.

Baird’s connection to VCU Health

Born in Richmond, Va., in 1931, Baird graduated from the University of Richmond and went on to attend the Medical College of Virginia (now the VCU Health), graduating in 1957 with his medical degree. After completing his internship and residency at MCV, Baird completed a cardiovascular fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic and went on to serve in the U.S. Army and as the director of medical education at Watts Hospital in Durham, N.C. In 1965, Baird was invited to become a member of the faculty of the Department of Cardiology at the Medical College of Virginia, where he was instrumental in starting the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. Even after leaving VCU in 1972 to found the Virginia Heart Institute, Baird maintained very close relations with the physicians at the medical center, specifically in the departments of Cardiology and Radiology.

How is Baird Vascular Institute affiliated with VCU Health?

Every day, there’s a new discovery at VCU Health. Whether it’s a patient who undergoes a new, life-saving procedure or a clinical researcher who finds promise in a new cancer treatment, exciting medical advances are taking place. As the only academic medical center in the region, VCU Health is on the forefront of health care, providing patients with the most progressive treatments and medical technology available.

For the third time, VCU Health has been ranked a #1 hospital in Virginia and the Richmond metro area by U.S.News & World Report®. Thanks to the dedication, compassion and expertise of its more than 11,000 team members — from doctors, nurses and resident medical staff to support personnel and administrators — the medical center also enjoys consistently high patient satisfaction ratings.

The interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons of VCU Health teamed up to create a unique and exciting service for patients in Central Virginia. By combining the experience and expertise of these two areas, these skilled physicians offer the very best in vascular care for the Greater Richmond area at Baird Vascular Institute. Our state-of-the-art facility offers customized vascular care tailored to the individual needs of each patient — set in a warm and friendly environment located conveniently just off Interstate I-195.

VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute is unique in that it combines the very best expertise and knowledge of a prominent academic medical center with the convenience of an outpatient clinic. Designed to be patient friendly and easily accessible, the Baird Vascular Institute provides patients with a comfortable setting for the diagnosis and treatment of many vascular conditions.