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Vasc Med. 2012 Feb;17(1):10-6. doi: 10.1177/1358863X11431106.

Progression of asymptomatic peripheral artery disease over 1 year.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Section of Vascular Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The pathophysiology and time course of an individual converting from asymptomatic peripheral artery disease (PAD) to symptomatic claudication is unclear. The objectives of this study were: (1) to characterize the extent of atherosclerotic disease in individuals with an abnormal ankle-brachial index (ABI), but without claudication; and over 1 year of follow-up to (2) evaluate the progression of PAD using ultrasound imaging, (3) determine changes in the ABI and leg pain symptoms, and (4) correlate PAD progression with changes in the ABI and leg symptoms. We hypothesized that PAD progression would be associated with the development of claudication and changes in the ABI, 6-minute walk distance (6-MWD), and walking quality of life. Individuals with a reduced ABI but without typical intermittent claudication noted on community screening were invited to undergo baseline and 1-year follow-up assessment, including duplex ultrasound. The initial and repeat evaluations included measurement of the ABI, lower extremity duplex arterial mapping, and assessment of leg pain and functional status. Of the 50 people studied, 44 (88%) had significant atherosclerotic lesions in the lower extremity arteries, affecting 80 legs. A total of 33 of 50 individuals (66%) returned for the 1-year follow-up visit. On ultrasound examination, two of 18 normal legs developed PAD, and in 48 legs with PAD at baseline, 17 legs (35%) developed new or progressive lesions. Thirteen legs developed new claudication. Overall, there was no significant worsening in the ABI, 6-MWD, or the Walking Impairment Questionnaire (WIQ). However, legs with new lesions or lesion progression were significantly more likely to develop claudication, and the 13 legs (seven subjects) developing claudication showed a significant decline in the 6-MWD. In conclusion, these data indicate that a significant number of people with asymptomatic PAD show progression over 1 year, that such individuals are more likely to develop claudication, and that those developing claudication have a significant decrease in their 6-MWD.

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