Utility and barriers to performance of the ankle-brachial index in primary care practice

Emile R. Mohler, Diane Treat-Jacobson, Muredach P. Reilly, Kelly E. Cunningham, Mark Miani, Michael H. Criqui, William R. Hiatt, Alan T. Hirsch

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123 Scopus citations


Peripheral arterial disease is prevalent, associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and is underdiagnosed. Nevertheless, systematic efforts to provide early office-based peripheral arterial disease detection are not routinely implemented in office practice. The PARTNERS Program implemented the ankle-brachial index (ABI) measurement in primary care outpatient clinics in order to model practical dissemination of this technique and thus improve office-based peripheral arterial disease detection. The objective of this study was to identify clinician-defined factors that were perceived to foster acceptance of, or create barriers to, the use of the ABI in office practice. The ABI Utilization Survey was administered to primary care clinicians who participated in the PARTNERS Program, as well as to additional primary care clinicians who participated in the PARTNERS Preceptorship. The survey assessed six parameters: pre- and post-participation office ABI utilization; perceived clinical utility of the ABI; perceived value of the ABI data relative to other commonly used office disease detection methods; feasibility of implementing office-based ABI testing; definition of factors limiting utilization of the ABI in office practice; and the role of office staff in performing the ABI test. Survey data were obtained from 886 respondents. A total of 68% of respondents did not measure the ABI prior to participation in the PARTNERS Program. After Program participation, the frequency of office ABI use increased from 12% to 43% weekly and 13% to 39% monthly. The few participants who reported using the ABI only once a year (annually) did not significantly change after the program. Most clinicians believed that the ABI was useful in the diagnosis and management of both symptomatic (96%) and asymptomatic (89%) peripheral arterial disease. Moderate to major barriers to use of the ABI included time constraints (56%), lack of reimbursement (45%), and staff availability (45%). Nearly all (88%) clinicians believed that it was feasible to incorporate ABI into daily practice. Overall, most clinicians (57-75%) believed that ABI was equal to, or more useful, than other widely available and reimbursed screening tests in preserving their patients' health. In conclusion, the ABI was perceived by primary care clinicians to be a clinically useful diagnostic test. Limited reimbursement and time were identified as the primary barriers to its widespread use. Once learned, most clinicians stated that the ABI would continue to be frequently used in their office practice. The ABI is a simple peripheral arterial disease detection tool that can be successfully applied in primary care office practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalVascular Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Ankle-brachial index
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Claudication
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Prevention


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