Outpatient physical therapy cardiovascular assessment: Physical therapist perspective and experience

Physical therapists are recognized healthcare providers who play an important role in cardiovascular disease prevention. Heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) are important parameters in cardiovascular risk assessment; however, physical therapists do not usually integrate them into clinical practice. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the current practice and opinion of outpatient physical therapists toward HR and BP measurements in clinics.

A 12-item survey questionnaire was distributed to outpatient physical therapists. Five senior staff from different specialties, including orthopedic, neurology, pediatric, cardiopulmonary, and sport specialties, participated in a focus group interview to gather their opinions.

In total, 285 (56%: male) physical therapists participated. Only 68 (24%) measured HR and BP; of these, 27 (41%) used manual sphygmomanometers. Nearly one-fifth reported that cardiovascular adverse events, such as syncope and chest pain, occurred during therapeutic exercise of their patients and were the highest among the sport and orthopedic physical therapists. Most physical therapists felt that measuring cardiovascular indices is not their job and does not add value to their treatment plan. Majority of the physical therapists were not measuring HR and BP during clinical assessment, although some reported cardiovascular adverse events occurring in their patients.