Peripheral Artery Disease

Diagnosis & Tests

Your healthcare provider can often diagnose peripheral artery disease based on your symptoms and a physical examination. Because many patients have no symptoms, medical guidelines recommend screening for patients who have risk factors for peripheral artery disease.

Your healthcare provider may also want you to have one or more of the tests below. 

Ankle-brachial Index

The ankle-brachial index (ABI) uses a regular blood pressure cuff to compare the blood pressure at the ankle with the blood pressure in the arm. This test is sometimes done at rest and after walking on a treadmill.

Segmental Blood Pressure 

Blood pressure can also be measured and compared at different places on the legs (calf, lower thigh, upper thigh) to determine the location and severity of peripheral artery disease.

Imaging

An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to see the location and severity of the narrowing in the blood vessels. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are other ways of looking at blood vessels. These tests expose patients to generally harmless levels of radiation (CT scan) and require an injection of contrast dye in order to see the blood vessels.

Some patients may need a more advanced test, called arteriography, especially if symptoms suddenly worsen, or if your doctor thinks surgery might be needed to treat your disease. During arteriography, a catheter is placed in the artery (usually in the groin). Dye flows through the catheter into the arteries and pictures of the arteries are taken using X-rays.

Updated: November 2016