Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): European population-based action plan for early diagnosis

Lack of support for people with vascular diseases, including peripheral arterial diseases (PAD), may expose them to dramatic health care costs due to acute, even fatal, cardiovascular events. In response to this WHO and Vascular Independent Research and Education European Organisation (VAS) have recently organized a joint session on “Burden and Equity in Vascular Diseases” (during the 10th European Angiology Days) to promote awareness and prevention of the condition.

PAD is a disease of high human and social impact and after coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, is the third most prevalent form of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

The mortality rate in patients suffering from PAD is at least three times higher than in age matched controls. In addition, patients can undergo acute, non-fatal cardiovascular events, some of which necessitate the surgical amputation of limbs.

PAD is a chronic disease, which significantly reduces the quality of life of sufferers. As PAD progresses with age, the disease burden is likely to increase with the global rise in life expectancy. Similarly, the growing prevalence of this disease in low-income countries necessitates urgent action.

Early identification of PAD is a priority both for the individual and for society as a whole.  For individuals, early identification will reduce the severity of the disease and the chance of requiring amputations. Preventative measures, such as promoting risk factor reduction, are more cost-effective than the surgeries and rehabilitation required to treat advanced PAD.

To prevent the onset and evolution of PAD, a broader project is required to promote awareness and education by involving several parties through social participation and vertical integration. It is integral that the project involves the population: providing accessible information to improve patient understanding about the key risk factors for PAD (in particular smoking, diet and physical activity), and to assist early diagnosis by both empowering individuals to self report a suspected diagnosis and improving the accessibility of simple diagnostic tests such as arterial brachial pressure index (ABPI).

To address this, VAS launched the "PAD and Vascular European Days” which will run every year on the third Wednesday and Thursday in March. The first iteration is scheduled for 19-20 March 2014. A European document entitled, “No More Vascular Amputations”, is also under development.