What is a Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Test? | USA Vascular Centers

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What is a Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Test?

peripheral artery disease test

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can be a debilitating condition, but by catching it early with a peripheral artery disease test, there’s a good chance that lifestyle changes and treatment can slow the progression of the disease. If you have any of the risk factors for PAD and are 50 years old or older, or you don’t have risk factors but are age 65 or older, it’s time to undergo a peripheral artery disease test. 

PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries leading to your legs and feet. For more information on whether you might be at risk of PAD and what treatments can help you, schedule a consultation with one of the board-certified vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers. 

At USA Vascular Centers, our doctors are highly skilled in treating PAD, and they’ll put together a personalized treatment plan to address your symptoms. We offer outpatient procedures to help widen any narrowed arteries our board-certified vascular doctors and surgeons discover after conducting a peripheral artery disease test. Plus, we have over 40 locations in the United States for you to choose from. 

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How Do You Test For Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral artery disease testing often consists of a physical examination, bloodwork, an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, and an angiogram. During a physical peripheral artery disease test, a doctor may examine your feet and legs, looking for signs of ulcers, wounds that aren’t healing, and changes in skin color or temperature. Your doctor can also determine the strength of the two pulses that should be present in each foot.

Your provider may also order blood testing to help detect signs of diabetes, high cholesterol, and kidney disease, which can all contribute to PAD. Next, your doctor may conduct an ankle-brachial index test, which is a widely used PAD test. In this simple PAD test, your provider measures the blood pressure in your arms and ankles and compares the two numbers to get an ABI score. If your score is 0.90 or less, your doctor may diagnose you with PAD.

An angiogram can help diagnose PAD, too, and it’s a useful PAD test for determining the location of a blockage. This minimally invasive test for peripheral artery disease uses a small catheter, X-ray imaging, and contrast dye to pinpoint the area where plaque is blocking the inner passageway of an artery. At USA Vascular Centers, our expert vascular doctors can perform this procedure in our state-of-the-art catheterization lab (cath lab).

Does a PAD Test Hurt?

It depends on the type of PAD test. A physical exam should not be painful, nor should an ankle-brachial index test. However, a peripheral artery disease ABI test can be slightly uncomfortable when the blood pressure cuff tightens on your arm and ankle.

A blood test involves drawing blood from a vein, so you may feel a pinch of pain while the technician inserts the needle into your arm. 

During an angiogram, your provider uses a tiny needle to inject an anesthetic into your groin. The anesthesia should help prevent any feelings of pain or discomfort, but if you are worried about this step, the empathetic surgeons at USA Vascular Centers can help ease your fears or find ways to make the procedure as comfortable as possible.

How Long Does a PAD Test Take?

Most tests for peripheral artery disease can be completed within a few hours or less, except blood testing for PAD, which may take longer depending on each lab. A physical test can take just a few minutes, and an ankle-brachial index test generally takes between 10 and 20 minutes.

An angiogram usually lasts between one and three hours.

Our doctors at USA Vascular Centers aim to make peripheral artery disease testing comfortable and can begin discussing treatment options with you as soon as they have the results from your PAD tests.

Who Should Get a PAD Test?

Anyone with risk factors for PAD or symptoms of PAD should reach out to a vascular doctor for a peripheral artery disease test. Risk factors for PAD include a past or current smoking habit, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a family history of arterial disease. If you have any of these risk factors, reach out to one of our vascular doctors for a peripheral artery disease test

The most common symptom of PAD is pain or cramping in the legs during everyday activities, such as climbing a flight of stairs. Other signs of PAD include skin color or temperature changes in the legs and feet, patchy or slow-growing leg hair, and ulcers. Remember, it’s critical to catch PAD early and start a treatment plan to address symptoms, so pay attention to your body’s signals and seek help if you suspect you may have PAD.

Peripheral artery disease testing is a safe and effective way to determine the presence of this common yet serious condition and start you on the road to treatment. Treating PAD early on can help prevent you from quickly progressing through the stages of PAD.

How is PAD Treated?

At USA Vascular Centers, our highly recommended vascular doctors perform three PAD treatments: angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy. An angioplasty involves a catheter, much like an angiogram, but instead of simply examining your arteries, an angioplasty uses a balloon-tipped catheter to compress the plaque against your artery walls. During a stent placement, your doctor will perform an angioplasty and then place a small mesh stent inside your artery wall to keep it from narrowing again. In an atherectomy, your vascular surgeon uses a laser or tiny blade to safely remove plaque from your arteries.

After peripheral artery disease testing, you and your doctor can discuss these treatment options and determine which is best for your situation. You can also make lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and beginning an exercise program, to help strengthen your arterial health. 

Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers

At USA Vascular Centers, our doctors will help treat your PAD symptoms so you can get back to enjoying your favorite activities. If you need to undergo testing for PAD, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our vascular doctors online or call us at 888.773.2193 today. Our advanced diagnosis and treatment programs can help improve your quality of life and reduce your risk of PAD complications.

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Sources Cited:

  1. Mohler III, Emile R. “Screening for Peripheral Artery Disease.” Circulation, August 21, 2012. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.069211.
  2. “Peripheral Artery Disease – Exams & Tests – Cardiosmart.” Accessed June 17, 2022. https://www.cardiosmart.org/topics/peripheral-artery-disease/exams-and-tests.
  3. “Ankle Brachial Index Test.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, April 28, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/ankle-brachial-index-test. 
  4. British Heart Foundation. “What Is an Angiogram?” What is an angiogram? – Heart Matters magazine. British Heart Foundation, February 7, 2019. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/tests/angiogram. 
  5. Hyperarts, Rob Mayfield -. “Angiography.” Vascular & Endovascular Surgery -Angiography. Accessed June 16, 2022. https://vascularsurgery.ucsf.edu/conditions–procedures/angiography.aspx. 

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