Foot screening could identify heart irregularities

Jack Woodfield
Mon, 26 Feb 2018
Foot screening could identify heart irregularities
A specialised type of foot check aimed at diagnosing a heart problem could reduce the risk of people with diabetes experiencing stroke, a study has found.

The Northern Diabetes Footcare Network is urging for the introduction of an annual foot pulse-test in the UK to diagnose Atrial Fibrillation (AF), which can cause irregular heart rate and lead to a greater risk of stroke if not treated.

The call comes following the publication of the results of a three-month pilot foot pulse-test which suggested that the health service in the North East could benefit from a saving of £500,000. The cost of a stroke is £23,315 per person, which is what the calculations in the Podiatry and Atrial Fibrillation Case Finding are based on.

A total of 5,000 people with diabetes took part in the research in the region, with results suggesting that one new diagnosis of AF could be picked up in every 500 people.

The project involved 45 podiatrists based in the Darlington, North Durham and Durham Dales Easington and Sedgefield areas who were trained to carry out the pulse readings on feet and spot heart irregularities during a yearly foot screening.

The results come during National Heart Month, organised by the British Heart Foundation, which has been taking place throughout February.

Study leader Linda Hicks, who is a Podiatrist at Country Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, said: "The feet can provide an excellent indication of a patients' wider health and can be the first sign of a potentially serious problem that, if caught early, could save your life. Patients with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing problems with their feet which is why we want to stress the importance of their annual foot check.

"With podiatry staff already taking pulses in patients’ feet they are well placed to help identify patients with pulse irregularities. The podiatry staff I've worked with across County Durham and Darlington have been very tuned into the program and recognize it as their clinical responsibility to help spot AF.

"The pilot has been an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the condition amongst patients and healthcare professionals alike and training continues to be rolled out across the region."

AF is believed to affect about one million people living in the UK and another 474,000 are thought to be living with the condition but unaware that they have it.
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