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01-12-2019 | Review | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2019

The reliability of the ankle brachial index: a systematic review

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Sarah Casey, Sean Lanting, Christopher Oldmeadow, Vivienne Chuter
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The ankle brachial index (ABI) is widely used in clinical practice as a non-invasive method to detect the presence and severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Current guidelines suggest that it should be used to monitor potential progression of PAD in affected individuals. As such, it is important that the test is reliable when used for repeated measurements, by the same or different health practitioners. This systematic review aims to examine the literature to evaluate the inter- and intra-rater reliability of the ABI.


A systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL Complete was conducted to 20 January 2019. Two authors independently reviewed and selected relevant studies and extracted the data. Methodological quality was determined using the Quality Appraisal of Reliability (QAREL) Checklist.


Fifteen studies of ABI reliability in a range of patient populations were identified as suitable for inclusion in the review: seven considered inter-rater reliability, four intra-rater reliability, and four studies evaluated both inter- and intra-rater reliability. Inter-rater reliability was found to be highly variable, with intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC’s) ranging from poor to excellent (ICC 0.42–1.00), while intra-rater also demonstrated considerable variation, with ICCs from 0.42–0.98. Meta-analysis was not possible due to the lack of statistical information reported.


Results of included studies suggest the inter- and intra-tester reliability of the ABI is acceptable. However, inconsistencies in obtaining systolic pressure measurements, calculating ABI values, and incomplete reporting of methodologies and statistical analysis make it difficult to determine the validity of the results of included studies. Further research, with more consistent reliability methodology, statistical analysis and reporting conducted in populations at risk of PAD is needed to conclusively determine the ABI reliability.

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