Tests and diagnosis for Peripheral Artery Disease

The diagnosis is based on medical, family history, physical examination, and test results. A correct diagnosis is very important because people with PAD are at higher risk of heart attack and Stroke.

To be sure you  have PAD your doctor may ask for the following tests:

  • Physical Examination – Your doctor may find your foot pulses absent of weak. He may find a bruit with a stethoscope placed over the artery or reduced blood pressure in the affected limb.
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI). This is commonly performed and compares your blood pressure in the ankle with that of the arm. This test may be performed after exercising on the treadmill.
Ankle Brachial Index
Ankle Brachial Index
  • Ultrasound – this helps evaluate blood flow through the arteries and identify blocked arteries or narrowed arteries.
 Narrowing On Ultrasound
Narrowing on ultrasound
  • Angiography – It is performed by injecting a dye into the artery and seeing the flow through the vessel.
Narrowed Artery On Angiogram
Narrowed artery on angiogram

The tracing of the dye and the visualization of the arteries can be done by:

  • X-Ray imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRA)
  • Computerized tomography imaging.
  • Conventional angiography which is more invasive as a catheter is placed in the vessel and advanced to the groin and affected area. However, in this form, it is the only modality that is diagnostic and therapeutic. Angioplasty and stenting or insertion of the drug can be done simultaneously to improve the blood flow.
  • Blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and sugar should be tested.

Treatment and Drugs

The treatment of PAD has two major goals:

  • Relief from pain so that patient can resume normal activity
  • Stop the progression of atherosclerosis throughout the body to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke

It is likely that you achieve these goals by lifestyle changes like quitting smoking which is the most important thing one can do reduce the risk of complications.

If lifestyle changes are inadequate then additional medical treatment is needed – to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control pain and other symptoms.