Minnesota Nursing magazine

The gold standard for PAD exercise therapy

American Heart Association’s scientific statement serves as clinical evidence supporting exercise for PAD patients
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Brett Stursa

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a national coverage determination for supervised exercise therapy for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), it meant that for the first time, insurance would cover exercise therapy to treat PAD.

The decision was a significant win for the more than 8 million Americans affected by PAD, which causes blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the legs. Those living with PAD experience pain in their leg muscles, which also limits physical activity.

Supervised exercise therapy (SET) is one of the most effective therapies to improve symptoms of PAD. With the determination that insurance should cover the therapy, there was increased interest from centers across the country who were already providing exercise therapy for patients with cardiac and pulmonary disease to develop programs specifically for patients with PAD.

To address the growing need, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement that summarizes how PAD should be treated through exercise therapy. This scientific statement, written by a committee chaired by Professor Diane Treat-Jacobson, PhD, RN, FAAN, serves as the comprehensive clinical resource regarding the evidence supporting exercise for patients with PAD. It outlines the role of SET, as well as home-based walking programs and alternative exercise approaches.

“Structured exercise therapy can significantly improve the symptoms of PAD, allowing patients to walk farther without discomfort and without having to stop,” said Treat-Jacobson, who is associate dean for research at the School of Nursing. “It is also a very cost-effective therapy and national patient care guidelines recommend it as a first-line therapy for patients with symptomatic PAD.”

Treat-Jacobson’s research is focused on promoting awareness, timely identification and improved treatment for patients who experience PAD, including the development, implementation and assessment of exercise interventions.

“For the first time, this scientific statement summarizes over 30 years of evidence that shows the effectiveness of exercise with PAD,” said Treat-Jacobson. “As someone who has invested a career in research to improve the lives of people with PAD, I am delighted that more people will be able to experience relief from symptoms and improve the quality of their lives.”

Optimal Exercise Programs for Patients With Peripheral Artery Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association was published in Circulation, Volume 139, Issue 4.

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Professor Diane Treat-Jacobson
Professor Diane Treat-Jacobson