Intermittent claudication (IC) has a high prevalence in the older population and is closely associated with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. High mortality rates are reported due to ongoing atherosclerotic disease. Because of these serious health risks, treatment of IC should address reduction of cardiovascular events (and related morbidity/mortality) and improvement of the poor health-related quality of life (QoL) and functional capacity. In several randomized clinical trials and systematic reviews, supervised exercise therapy (SET) is compared with non-supervised exercise, usual care, placebo, walking advice or vascular interventions. The current evidence supports SET as the primary treatment for IC. SET improves maximum walking distance and health-related QoL with a marginal risk of co-morbidity or mortality. This is also illustrated in contemporary international guidelines. Community-based SET appears to be at least as efficacious as programs provided in a clinical setting. In the Netherlands, a national integrated care network (ClaudicatioNet) providing specialized care for patients with IC is currently being implemented. Besides providing a standardized form of SET, the specialized physical therapists stimulate medication compliance and perform lifestyle coaching. Future research should focus on the influence of co-morbidities on prognosis and effect of SET outcome and the potential beneficial effects of SET combined with a vascular intervention.
- intermittent claudication
- cardiovascular risk management
- supervised exercise therapy