Christina L. Wassel, Alicia M. Ellis, Natalie C. Suder, Emma Barinas‐Mitchell, Dena E. Rifkin, Nketi I. Forbang, Julie O. Denenberg, Antoinette M. Marasco, Belinda J. McQuaide, Nancy S. Jenny, Matthew A. Allison, Joachim H. Ix, Michael H. Criqui


Background The ankle‐brachial index (ABI) is inadequate to detect early‐stage atherosclerotic disease, when interventions to prevent functional decline may be the most effective. We determined associations of femoral artery atherosclerosis with physical functioning, across the spectrum of the ABI, and within the normal ABI range.

Methods and Results In 2007–2011, 1103 multiethnic men and women participated in the San Diego Population Study, and completed all components of the summary performance score. Using Doppler ultrasound, superficial and common femoral intima media thickness and plaques were ascertained. Logistic regression was used to assess associations of femoral atherosclerosis with the summary performance score and its individual components. Models were adjusted for demographics, lifestyle factors, comorbidities, lipids, and kidney function. In adjusted models, among participants with a normal‐range ABI (1.00–1.30), the highest tertile of superficial intima media thickness was associated with lower odds of a perfect summary performance score of 12 (odds ratio=0.56 [0.36, 0.87], P=0.009), and lower odds of a 4‐m walk score of 4 (0.34 [0.16, 0.73], P=0.006) and chair rise score of 4 (0.56 [0.34, 0.94], P=0.03). Plaque presence (0.53 [0.29, 0.99], P=0.04) and greater total plaque burden (0.61 [0.43, 0.87], P=0.006) were associated with worse 4‐m walk performance in the normal‐range ABI group. Higher superficial intima media thickness was associated with lower summary performance score in all individuals (Ρ=0.02).

Conclusions Findings suggest that use of femoral artery atherosclerosis measures may be effective in individuals with a normal‐range ABI, especially, for example, those with diabetes mellitus or a family history of peripheral artery disease, when detection can lead to earlier intervention to prevent functional declines and improve quality of life.

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