Lisan Yip is co-ordinating an Australia-first JCU study aimed to help people with blocked leg arteries self-manage their condition.
Fifteen percent of Australians aged over 60 suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD) which can cause debilitating pain in their legs, which deters them from engaging in exercise that could alleviate the condition.
JCU’s Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease (QRC-PVD) is trialling a program to find out whether sessions with trained health support workers can nurture long-term changes in patient exercise levels and enable them to avoid potentially risky surgical procedures.
“When these people with leg artery blockage walk they commonly get pain, which can be interpreted as a sign walking is bad for their legs. But in actual fact, there is good evidence that walking can improve functional capacity, alleviate pain and may help avoid or delay surgery,” said Ms Yip.
“The current surgical options to treat leg arteries blocked by fatty deposits involve inserting temporary balloons, permanent stents or conducting artery bypass. But commonly arteries become blocked again, so more surgery is required. Every surgery involves risk of complications, so multiple surgeries increases that risk, including the risk of amputation.”
Launched in 2014, this clinical trial completed recruitment in late 2019. The trial is being conducted in Brisbane, Sydney and Townsville.
A previous Scottish study found that behavioural counselling helped people with artery disease to increase their physical activity over a six-month period. The JCU trial aims to see if such benefits can be replicated and sustained over a longer period.
All participants undergo physical assessments by a study coordinator at the beginning of the trial, then again at four, 12 and 24 months.
“We hope the program will aid people increased levels of physical activity and reduce their need for surgery,” said Ms Yip.
If the trial is successful, she hopes it will encourage the development of a training program to equip allied health professionals across Australia with the skills to deliver similar programs to people with blocked leg arteries.
A non-surgical treatment option could significantly improve quality of life for these patients, a number of whom have already endured years of pain.