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The ankle brachial index (ABI) is an objective diagnostic tool that is widely used for the diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease. Despite its usefulness, it is evident within the literature that many practitioners forgo using this screening tool due to limiting factors such as time. There is also no recommended technique for ABI measurement. The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceptions of the use of ABI clinically among Western Australian podiatrists.
This study was a cross sectional survey which evaluated the perceptions of the ABI amongst registered podiatrists in Western Australia. The study sample was obtained from the register of podiatrists listed with the Podiatrists Registration Board of Western Australia. Podiatrists were contacted by telephone and invited to participate in a telephone questionnaire. Chi-square tests were performed to determine if there was a statistically significant relationship between use of the ABI and podiatrists' profile which included: sector of employment; geographical location; and length of time in practice.
There is a statistically significant relationship (p=0.004) between podiatrists' profile and the use of ABI, with higher usage in the tertiary hospital setting than in private practice. Length of time spent in practice had no significant impact on ABI usage (p=0.098). Time constraints and lack of equipment were key limiting factors to performing the ABI, and no preferred technique was indicated.
Western Australian podiatrists agree that the ABI is a useful tool for lower limb vascular assessment, however, various factors influence uptake in the clinical setting. This study suggests that a podiatrists' profile has a significant influence on the use of the ABI, which may be attributed to different patient types across the various settings. The influence of time spent in practice on ABI usage may be attributed to differences in clinical training and awareness of lower limb pathology over time. The authors recommend publication of 'best practice' guidelines to ABI performance, as well as further education and financial rebates from health organizations to facilitate increased utility of the ABI based on the findings of this study.