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This doctor does not want to see you now

Patients who have cramps in their calves after walking a few blocks probably have some blockages in their arteries. Just as you get chest pain in a heart attack, you'll get pain without blood flow.

Joseph Lombardi, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, PhiladelphiaIf you have an appointment with Dr. Joe Lombardi (right) of the Thomas Jefferson University Aortic Center in Philadelphia, you have serious problems. Dr. Lombardi is a vascular surgeon. He describes his job as fixing aneuryisms and doing "roto rooter" jobs on veins and arteries. He knows you don't want to see him. He doesn't want to see you, either. So he is spending some time trying to keep you from seeing him as part of Peripheral Disease Awareness Week. Part of this community service involved talking to ZDNet. He told us that both public and primary care physician education are important in getting demand for his services down. We know the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. They are the same for vascular disease. Hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes bring Dr. Lombardi the business. So when should you worry? "Patients who have cramps in their calves after walking a few blocks probably have some blockages in their arteries. Just as you get chest pain in a heart attack, you'll get pain without blood flow." If your legs hurt a lot and you have these risk factors for disease, in other words, get to the doctor. For physicians, he said, they need to know this is a common condition and screen for it. 

This means "Ultrasounds for the abdominals, and carotid stenosis. Measuring blood pressure in the ankle as well as the arm. All these things help in getting patients into care, letting them know this is going to happen."

If primary care physicians can detect signs of arterial disease early, they can give patients the "call to Jesus" talk they need to avoid surgery.

I should add I have a dog in this fight. My dad had vascular disease, which required the replacement of his aorta when he was in his 60s. He lived 15 years more, but it doesn't take a near-death experience for you to live as long as he did.

So while Dr. Lombardi deserves thanks from all of us for the work he does, the way to give him that thanks is to avoid seeing him in the first place.