The Center for Cardiac, Pulmonary, and Vascular Fitness

Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Rehabilitation Program

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition in which the arteries of the legs or arms become narrowed by atherosclerosis, which results from the build-up of plaque on the inner lining of arterial walls. The restricted blood flow can cause pain or weakness in the extremities, especially when walking or moving. If you experience pain in your calves or thighs after walking short distances, also called intermittent claudication (IC), you may benefit from a rehabilitation program.

Dean Ornish patient walking

Contact Us

For more information or to refer a patient, please call 401-793-5810.

Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute
The Center for Cardiac Fitness
208 Collyer Street
Providence, RI 02904

How is PAD treated?

The first line of therapy for PAD is physical exercise. Other treatments include medication and surgical interventions.

Daily walks are very beneficial for people with PAD, with the goal of increasing the distance one can walk without pain. Walking may be the only treatment needed. However, some people cannot tolerate the level of pain they experience while walking. For these patients, supervised exercise therapy can be effective for reducing pain and increasing stamina, and may prevent the need for surgery.

For these patients with IC, the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute offers its PAD Rehabilitation Program. IC is pain or discomfort that occurs in the legs while walking or exercising and that resolves with rest. These patients are usually capable of walking only short distances, which has a negative impact on their activities and quality of life.

The goal of the program is to:

  • Relieve symptoms

  • Reduce cardiovascular risk, and

  • Improve ability to walk and move without pain.

Who is eligible?

Patients with a physician diagnosis of PAD, as well as post-surgical patients (peripheral angioplasty, peripheral arterial bypass, stent placement), who are experiencing symptoms of claudication may be eligible to participate in the program. Supervised exercise therapy is an effective way to alleviate the most common symptom associated with PAD. It has proven to be more effective than unsupervised exercise, and could prevent the progression of PAD and lower the risk of cardiovascular events.

A referral from the physician who is treating the patient’s claudication is required. An ankle-brachial index test and a claudication exercise test to measure initial walking duration are required before beginning the program. The ankle-brachial index test compares the blood pressure in your ankles to the blood pressures in your arms to assess whether sufficient blood supply is circulating in your legs. 

If you have results from recent tests, please provide them to us.

Most insurance plans cover the program if you have a qualifying diagnosis. However, to avoid unexpected medical expenses or copays, please contact your insurance carrier before enrolling, to confirm coverage and inquire about costs.

How does the program work?

The PAD Rehabilitation Program features supervised exercise on a treadmill or track 3 days a week for 12 weeks. Education plays a key role in the program and focuses on the importance of exercise, as well as on other beneficial lifestyle modifications such as adopting a heart healthy diet and cessation of smoking.

A treadmill-walking test is required before beginning the program to assess pain-free walking time. Treadmill walking, cardiovascular conditioning and strength-training exercises progress gradually. An exercise physiologist, physical therapist, or nurse monitors each patient’s exercise, adjusting for pain or other health limitations.

When you complete the rehabilitation program, we report your progress to your referring physician, usually with a recommendation to graduate into a maintenance program.

Our Rehabilitation Team

Our rehabilitation staff includes exercise physiologists, physical therapists, physicians, registered nurses, behavioral therapists, registered dietitians, and clinical pharmacists.