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How do you test for peripheral arterial disease?

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Video Overview

How do you test for peripheral arterial disease? Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a problem due to blockages in the blood flow to the legs. This problem develops as plaque builds up in the arteries of the lower extremities, restricting blood flow. The simplest, and often first test, we use to detect PAD is called an ankle brachial index, or ABI. This test is based on the fact that the blood pressure in your arms should be the same as the blood pressure in your legs. To do this test we first measure the blood pressure in your arms. We then measure the blood pressure in the legs and compare the two. If the pressures are equal between the legs and the arms, then there is no significant peripheral arterial disease. If, however, the blood pressure is found to be lower in the legs than in the arms, that tells us that there is some kind of blockage going on and that we need to get further testing. The test that we typically get to further evaluate a patient whose been diagnosed with PAD is a CT angiogram. This is a test that uses IV contrast dye and an x-ray machine that gives us three dimensional images of the patient's blood flow, all the way from their chest down to their feet. This test is much more specific and it gives us information regarding location and the degree of the blockages. If the patient has evidence of high grade PAD on this test, treatment is often recommended.

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