She had tried to quit countless times without success, but when doctors told Premier Surgical vascular patient Cathy Robinson her smoking could cause her to lose her legs she listened and, with the help of step-down nicotine patches, gave up smoking.


“I know that smoking is not good for you, I’ve known it all my life,” said Robinson, who had smoked for 40-plus years. “My Dad smoked but I never ever associated smoking with vascular problems – just cancer because that’s all you hear. But it was either that or, if I continued to smoke, the healing would be slower, the grafts or the bypass may not heal correctly or last like it should, or I could’ve lost my legs.”

That was Nov. 7 – almost three months before she underwent an aortobifemoral bypass at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center with Premier vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Young performing the surgery.

“Dr. Young told me this was not going to get better,” said Robinson. “He said, ‘Yes, I’m proud of you for quitting smoking, but quitting is not going to improve it.’ Plus, it’s hereditary too. But hopefully, it won’t get worse.”

The first step in preventing Peripheral Artery Disease (or PAD) is recognizing the risk factors, and changing those within your control.
Dr. Richard Young

“Smoking is by far the worst culprit,” states Dr. Young, noting that tobacco usage dramatically increases your PAD risk and makes symptoms of PAD worse.

“Your risk can be lowered by doing several things: don’t smoke, optimize your glucose control if you’re diabetic, control and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. You can’t pick your parents, so you can’t do anything about family history.”

“I take a cholesterol pill too. It wouldn’t matter if I went days without eating, I would still have high cholesterol because my mother and brother had that too,” said Robinson who is also on hypertension medicine.

At 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds, Robinson’s weight is not a risk factor for her. But if you are overweight, lose the extra pounds through a healthy diet and exercise program.

“By controlling your risk factors and walking, PAD can often be managed non-operatively,” explains Dr. Young. “When management fails, interventions can be considered. Intervention is mandatory if a limb is threatened.”