Referral from vascular surgery to cardiovascular rehabilitation and related outcomes in patients with peripheral arterial disease: the THINKPAD-RELOADED survey
The utilization of cardiovascular rehabilitation (CR) programmes in patients with Lower Extremity Peripheral Artery Disease (LEPAD) is generally poor, with limited evidence of current policies for referral. The aim of the study was to evaluate, within a cohesive network of CR and vascular surgery facilities with facilitated referral process, the clinical characteristic of LEPAD patients referred to CR and related outcomes, as compared to patients not referred. The present is an observational prospective study of consecutive patients recruited at vascular surgery facilities. Out of 329 patients observed, the average referral rate to CR was 34% (28% and 39% in patients with and without recent peripheral revascularization, p<0.05). LEPAD patients entering the CR programme were similar to those who did not according to sex, age, the vascular surgery setting of evaluation, and localization of arterial lesions. Patients with moderate intermittent claudication and patients with acute limb ischemia as index event were more represented among those who attended CR (41% vs 21% and 9% vs 2% respectively, p<0.05). Patients referred to CR had five times more episodes of acute coronary syndrome and heart failure as complication of the index event. The cardiovascular risk profile (obesity 29.5% vs 11%, p<0.05; hypercholesterolemia 80% vs 61%, p<0.05) was much worse in LEPAD patients referred to CR, but conversely, they better achieved secondary prevention targets, particularly for blood pressure control (97% vs 57%, p<0.05). All-cause 2-year mortality in the whole patients’ population was 6%. Patients entering the CR programme displayed less events (13.5% vs 37.7%, p<0.05), mainly death (3.1% vs 11.3%, p<0.05) and limb-related events (4.2% vs 15.2%, p<0.05). The results of our study suggest that when a cohesive network of vascular surgery and CR facilities becomes available, the referral rate to rehabilitation may increase up to one third of eligible patients. Patients with higher comorbidity and cardiovascular risk seem to have priority in the referral process, nevertheless those with peripheral revascularization are still underestimated. Entering CR may ensure better cardiovascular risk profile and cardiovascular prognosis in LEPAD patients, and consequently the systematic adoption of this care model needs to be strongly recommended and facilitated.
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