Taking aim at strokes
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 2, 2014 1:50 AM
Dr. Robert Albrecht has joined the medical staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Albrecht performs an angiogram to examine arteries in a patient's leg. He is being assisted by radiologic technologist Kathryn Lord.
Wayne County's new vascular surgeon has his sights set on making his new community healthier, through education and new procedures designed to lower what is the community's No. 3 cause of death -- strokes.
And that requires keeping an eye on vein health, long before more serious symptoms develop and he comes into the picture, said Dr. Robert Albrecht of Wayne Health Surgical Associates.
Leg pain and varicose veins are common ailments, but they are not just cosmetic issues.
If left untreated, the symptoms could lead to more serious complications, Albrecht said.
He treats an array of symptoms, from spider veins, leg heaviness and fatigue to swollen limbs and skin changes. Some situations might require surgery, while others can be remedied with in-office procedures or a simpler solution, such as compression stockings.
But in the majority of cases, the problem actually originates early in life, Albrecht said.
"It takes decades for the plaque to build up," he said. "It starts when you're a teenager."
Contributing factors include cholesterol, diet, smoking and diabetes. The plaque builds up but may not get bad enough to warrant treatment until the person reaches his 40s, 50s or 60s, the physician said.
"Can you do anything to prevent the plaque buildup?" he asked. "You can control some of your risk factors -- control blood sugar, blood pressure, keeping cholesterol at bay. But there's one thing you can cure. You can cure your smoking habit."
Part of his role is to determine the cause of the patient's leg pain.
He said he would like to see Wayne Memorial Hospital promote screening events, attracting patients to have themselves checked for potential problems. At present, the hospital is not hosting any such events, perhaps because there are independent companies already doing that.
The local population is at particular risk of having vascular problems, he said. Wayne County is located in the "diabetes belt," he said, and also has a high rate of strokes.
"Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Wayne County," Albrecht said. "This is a disease that happens later in life. About 40 percent of strokes are caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.
"If you have ever had a stroke or mini-stroke, you should get an ultrasound. Mini-strokes, we like to fix the problem in two weeks."
Ideally, the doctor said he would like to ward off ailments for patients before they start. That is not always possible, however.
"I'm not preventive at all. I'm in-stage," he said. "Unfortunately, by the time you come to a vascular surgeon, you have got a problem (that's been around awhile)."
The best advice, he said, would be to control risk factors -- lifestyle choices like smoking and poor nutrition that lead to things like diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol issues.
"For the most part, if you can do the right things earlier to avoid seeing the vascular surgeon 15 to 20 years down the road, it's better," he said.
Albrecht's office is located at 2811 McLamb Place.
To schedule an appointment, call 919-734-1141.