Background: Peripheral arterial disease affects the lower limb and is associated with diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity. It increases the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. It can be symptomatic causing intermittent claudication, but often there are few clinical signs. Podiatrists are able to detect the presence of peripheral arterial disease as part of their lower limb assessment and are well placed to give advice on lifestyle changes to help reduce disease progression. This is important to improve health outcomes and is offered as a prevention/public health intervention.
Method: We describe the clinical and patient-centred outcomes of patients attending a podiatry-led integrated care pathway in a multi-use clinic situated in a venue supported by the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine in the UK. At the baseline appointment, patients were given a full assessment where symptoms of intermittent claudication using the Edinburgh Intermittent Claudication Questionnaire, foot pulses, Doppler sounds, Ankle Brachial Pressure Indices, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and cholesterol levels, and smoking status were recorded. A tailored treatment plan was devised, including referral to an exercise referral service, smoking cessation programmes (if applicable) and each participant was also seen by a dietician for nutritional advice. Participants were followed up at 3 and 6 months to assess any improvement in vascular status and with each completing the EQ-5D quality of life questionnaire and a simple satisfaction questionnaire at the end of the study. As this was a complex intervention a pilot study design was adopted to evaluate if the method and outcomes were suitable and acceptable to participants the results of which will then inform the design of a larger study.
Results: Data was collected on 21 individuals; 15 men (71.4%) and 6 women (28.6%) across the 6-month study period. Eleven participants were referred onto the exercise referral service; 16 participants saw the dietician for nutritional advice at baseline and had one-to-one or telephone follow-up at 3 months. Five out of 14 participants had reduced scores from baseline of intermittent claudication during the study period. No evidence for substantive changes in Doppler sounds or ABPI measurements was revealed. Quality of life scores with the EQ-5D improved in 15 participants; this was statistically significant (p = 0.007) with 14 participants who completed the simple satisfaction questionnaire expressing a positive view of the programme. Of the four people who were smokers, two stopped smoking cigarettes and moved to e-cigarettes as part of smoking cessation advice.
Conclusion: As this was a pilot study the sample size was low, but some statistically significant improvements with some measures were observed over the 6-month study. Podiatrists are able to provide a comprehensive vascular assessment of the lower limb and accompanying tailored advice on lifestyle changes including smoking cessation and exercise. Locating clinics in National Centres for Sports and Exercise Medicine enables easy access to exercise facilities to encourage the adoption of increased activity levels, though the long term sustainability of exercise programmes still requires evaluation. This study was reviewed and approved by London Brent Ethics Committee IRAS ID 204611 and received research governance approval from the sponsor, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Research and Innovation Office STH19410.