Context: Among individuals with lower-extremity peripheral arterial disease (PAD), specific leg symptoms and the ankle brachial index (ABI) are cross-sectionally related to the degree of functional impairment. However, relations between these clinical characteristics and objectively measured functional decline are unknown.
Objective: To define whether PAD, ABI, and specific leg symptoms predict functional decline at 2-year follow-up.
Design, setting, and participants: Prospective cohort study among 676 consecutively identified individuals (aged > or =55 years) with and without PAD (n = 417 and n = 259, respectively), with baseline functional assessments occurring between October 1, 1998, and January 31, 2000, and follow-up assessments scheduled 1 and 2 years thereafter. PAD was defined as ABI less than 0.90, and participants with PAD were categorized at baseline into 1 of 5 mutually exclusive symptom groups.
Main outcome measures: Mean annual changes in 6-minute walk performance and in usual-paced and fast-paced 4-m walking velocity, adjusted for age, sex, race, prior-year functioning, comorbid diseases, body mass index, pack-years of cigarette smoking, and patterns of missing data.
Results: Lower baseline ABI values were associated with greater mean (95% confidence interval) annual decline in 6-minute walk performance (-73.0 [-142 to -4.2] ft for ABI <0.50 vs -58.8 [-83.5 to -34.0] ft for ABI 0.50 to <0.90 vs -12.6 [-40.3 to 15.1] ft for ABI 0.90-1.50, P =.02). Compared with participants without PAD, PAD participants with leg pain on exertion and rest at baseline had greater mean annual decline in 6-minute walk performance (-111 [-173 to -50.0] ft vs -8.67 [-36.9 to 19.5] ft, P =.004), usual-pace 4-meter walking velocity (-0.06 [-0.09 to -0.02] m/sec vs -0.01 (-0.03 to 0.003] m/sec, P =.02), and fastest-pace 4-meter walking velocity (-0.07 [-0.11 to -0.03] m/sec vs -0.02 [-0.04 to -0.006] m/sec, P =.046). Compared with participants without PAD, asymptomatic PAD was associated with greater mean annual decline in 6-minute walk performance (-76.8 (-135 to -18.6] ft vs -8.67 (-36.9 to 19.5] ft, P =.04) and an increased odds ratio for becoming unable to walk for 6 minutes continuously (3.63; 95% confidence interval, 1.58-8.36; P =.002).
Conclusions: Baseline ABI and the nature of leg symptoms predict the degree of functional decline at 2-year follow-up. Previously reported lack of worsening in claudication symptoms over time in patients with PAD may be more related to declining functional performance to than lack of disease progression.