5 Diagnostic Tests for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

5 Diagnostic Tests for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Nearly 7 million American adults over age 40 have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a circulatory problem that can have life-threatening complications. 

PAD occurs when cholesterol plaques build up inside an artery, blocking normal blood flow. PAD can happen in the arms, but it’s far more common in the legs.

People with PAD often have symptoms like:

The affected limb may also be colder to the touch than the other limb.

Early diagnosis is important for preventing the complications of PAD. At Vein & Cardiovascular Center in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, Ashish Pal, MD, uses the most advanced testing methods to diagnose PAD in its earliest stages, including the five tests listed here.

1. Ankle-brachial index (ABI) test

You’re probably used to having your blood pressure taken in your arm. If Dr. Pal suspects you have PAD in your leg, he measures the blood pressure in both your legs, near your ankles. 

He compares the results to determine if the pressure in one leg is different from the pressure in the other. If so, it’s a good indication of PAD. (If Dr. Pal suspects you have PAD in your arm, ABI testing can be performed in your arms too.)

2. Exercise test 

ABI testing can be an effective method of diagnosing PAD when your symptoms occur while you’re resting. But if your resting symptoms are borderline, the diagnosis isn't so clear. In those cases, exercise testing can help. 

In an exercise test, you walk on a treadmill for a prescribed period of time. Then, Dr. Pal measures your ABI to see if physical exertion has an effect on your blood pressure in either leg. Exercise tests can also help determine the severity of your PAD.

3. Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create “pictures” of your blood vessels and blood flow. These tests can diagnose PAD and evaluate how well a particular treatment is working. 

Sometimes, ultrasound tests are performed in combination with a blood pressure cuff. The cuff is placed on different areas of your leg to help highlight specific parts of your arteries. This is called segmental Doppler pressure testing.

4. Angiography

Angiography uses diagnostic imaging to look for blockages inside your arteries. Dr. Pal uses X-rays, MRI, or CT scans for this test. Sometimes, he injects a dye first. The dye helps your vessels and blood flow show up better.

5. Blood tests

Although blood tests won’t definitively tell your provider if you have PAD, they do play an important role in diagnosis. Blood tests measure triglycerides and cholesterol, two types of lipids (fats) that contribute to the plaque formation that leads to PAD. 

Because PAD is more common among people with diabetes, Dr. Pal uses blood tests to check your glucose (blood sugar) levels too.

Never ignore PAD symptoms

PAD symptoms can be subtle and should never be ignored. Early diagnosis is essential for preventing more serious problems, like heart attacks or strokes. 

To schedule your PAD evaluation, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Pal and the team at Vein & Cardiovascular Center today.

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