Assessing cardiovascular parameters and risk factors in physical therapy practice: findings from a cross-sectional national survey and implication for clinical practice

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 Aug 4;23(1):749. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-05696-w.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death and comorbidity worldwide. High blood pressure and resting heart rate are risk factors (or vital signs) critical to cardiovascular health, patient safety, and medical management. Physiotherapists play a fundamental role in risk factor identification, early diagnosis, and subsequent management of cardiovascular disease. To date there is limited research in Europe investigating the level of knowledge and skills possessed by physiotherapists regarding cardiovascular disease screening. Three studies previously observed inadequate vital signs screening behaviors of physiotherapists practicing in the United States and Saudi Arabia. The primary aim of this study was to investigate cardiovascular knowledge and screening practices among Italian physiotherapists, according to the current practice recommendations.

METHODS: A Cross-Sectional Survey was developed adapting two previous surveys. The survey was administered to members of the Italian Physiotherapy Association. Chi squared test, Mann-Whitney test or Kruskal-Wallis test were used to study differences among subgroups and question responses.

RESULTS: The required sample size was met with total of 387 Italian physiotherapists completing the survey. 80% consider relevant cardiovascular assessment. However, 72.2% were not familiar to guidelines recommendations and only 50% screen vital signs routinely. Their knowledge of normative blood pressure (high-normal, 16%; hypertension, 12%) and heart rate values (bradycardia, 24%; tachycardia, 26%) were low. Although participants reported being skilled for blood pressure measurement (quite sure, 52%; sure, 27%), their adherence to guidelines is low (baseline measurement on both arm, 25%; 3 repeated measures, 46%). Only 27.8% reported to measure exercise related BP and 21.3% of them understood the concept of exaggerated BP. No significant differences between subgroups were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study revealed that a concerning proportion of Italian physiotherapists are not versed in fundamentals of properly performing cardiovascular screenings. This lack of knowledge is present across the profession and may impact on appropriate triage and management. The poorly executed screening has the potential to negatively impact the patient and the practitioner. Given the absence of Italian guidelines, we produced and implemented three infographics for public use, which have the dual objective of raising awareness about this subject and providing practical resources for everyday practice.

PMID:35927658 | DOI:10.1186/s12891-022-05696-w

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