PURPOSE: Patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) are recommended to increase physical activity to reduce cardiovascular risk. Vascular intervention (surgery or angioplasty) treats the symptom (intermittent claudication), but not the underlying cardiovascular disease. This study aims to explore the beliefs and physical activity behavior of patients with PAD who have received vascular intervention.
METHODS: Twenty participants who had received a vascular intervention for intermittent claudication between 6 months and 2 years previously participated in semistructured interviews. The interviews explored illness and treatment beliefs and walking behavior. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically.
RESULTS: Participants described a high level of ongoing symptoms (particularly pain) in their legs, despite having received vascular intervention. They viewed their illness as acute and treatable, and believed that pain was an indication of walking causing damage. They controlled their symptoms by avoiding walking and slowing their pace. Participants were generally unaware of the causes of the disease and were unaware of their increased risk of future cardiovascular health problems. There was a low level of congruence between participant beliefs about their illness and the recommendation to increase physical activity that may affect physical activity behavior.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that patients with PAD do not change physical activity behavior after diagnosis and treatment, because they hold dysfunctional and incongruous beliefs about PAD, treatment, and physical activity.