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Walk it Off: Hoag Offers Orange County's Only Supervised Walking Program

If you’re one of the eight million Americans suffering from peripheral arterial disease, you need a hospital that will go the extra mile to make sure you can walk an extra block.

Hoag is the only hospital in Orange County – and one of the few in the country – to offer the most comprehensive program available for people whose peripheralarterial disease (PAD) causes them debilitating pain. Hoag physicians offer the patients the optimal therapy and the most advanced surgical interventions. Now, in addition,Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute.

A common circulatory problem, PAD often leads to pain during exercise, known as claudication. If left untreated, PAD with claudication can lead to poor quality of life and limb loss. A sobering 20 percent of people with symptomatic PAD will die from a heart attack or stroke within five years of diagnosis according to some studies.

Only supervised exercise offers a clear, evidence-based solution to help save life and limb. In several studies, supervised exercise has even helped patients improve their mobility by 200 percent.

What is Supervised Exercise?

Supervised exercise is not like going to the gym. Monitored by a trained registered nurse and an exercise physiologist, patients going through the PAD Supervised Walking Exercise Program undergo medical assessments during each of their one-hour visits, three days per week. Their progress is meticulously monitored over six months.

In several clinical trials, supervised exercise has been shown to decrease pain, improve how far patients can walk and markedly reduce patients’ risk of heart attack and stroke – which is why it is recommended as a first-line therapy by the American Heart Association, the Society for Vascular Medicine and the American College of Cardiology.

Why don’t more hospitals offer this?

Cost. While the program is a proven, effective and risk-free first-line therapy, it is not yet covered by insurance. But the treatment is so effective, Hoag couldn’t ignore the evidence.

“Nobody helps patients like Hoag does,” said Ehab Mady, D.O., F.S.V.M., R.P.V.I., medical director of Hoag’s Vascular Services Program. “This intervention is evidence-based and is the first-line therapy for PAD with claudication. Hoag is committed to providing our community this option.”

For $1,200, cash-paying participants will receive three sessions per week for six months with a trained nurse and exercise physiologists in an outpatient setting, through Hoag’s cardiac rehabilitation center.

The program, which just launched in the fall, is being offered for new PAD patients as well as those who have already undergone surgery or medication treatments but need additional therapy.

In addition to the cost, Dr. Mady said there is one more reason hospitals aren’t rushing to offer this proven therapy: The patients themselves.

“When a patient comes to a doctor, they expect a rapid solution. If you say, ‘I’m enrolling you in a walking exercise program three times a week in which you’ll walk through your pain for six months – and by the way your insurance doesn’t cover it,’ you can imagine the uphill battle,” he said.

But Dr. Mady already has patients enrolled in the new program and expects the positive outcomes will speak for themselves.

“Doing any other treatment without first giving patients the option to receive this evidence-based therapy would be taking away a critical opportunity for them,” Dr. Mady said. “We want you alive, we want you alive with both legs and we want you to be pain-free. No other therapy can offer all three."