Our knowledge about the natural history of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is derived from studies carried out almost exclusively in northern European and northern American populations. This study was aimed at defining mortality and cardiovascular morbidity of PAD patients in Italy.Methods
From the lists of seven general practitioners, we identified all subjects aged 40–80 years (n = 4352). Of those reporting leg symptoms while walking at the Rose Questionnaire (n = 760), 60 (1.6% of the general population) had PAD, as evidenced by an ankle–brachial index of < 0.90 or reduced Doppler flow velocity. For each PAD patient, three sex and age-matched controls negative to the Rose Questionnaire were randomly selected from the general practice lists.Results
After 24 months of follow-up, 15% of PAD patients died, 8% from cardiovascular disease, and 25% developed a non-fatal cardiovascular event. At Cox analysis, the presence of PAD was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality (relative risk 4.03; 95% confidence interval 1.50–10.84; P = 0.006), cardiovascular mortality (relative risk 7.77; 95% confidence interval 1.51–40.16; P = 0.014), and non-fatal cardiovascular events (relative risk 3.11; 95% confidence interval 1.41–6.80; P = 0.005).Conclusions
This Italian study shows that, in general practice, symptomatic PAD is associated with a four-fold increased risk of mortality and a nearly eight-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. These figures are quite similar to those reported in northern European and northern American populations. General practitioners, who are the clinicians primarily and largely responsible for the care of these patients, should be alerted to the consequences of PAD.