Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication | Diagnosis & Tests

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How can my doctor be sure I have PAD or claudication?

Your doctor may suspect that your arteries have narrowed and will check the pulses in arteries in your legs and feet. Your doctor will listen to the blood flow with a stethoscope or a small Doppler device. Your doctor may hear a noise, called a bruit (say "brew-ee"), which can be a warning that there is a narrowed area in the artery. Blood pressure in your ankles can also be compared to blood pressure in your arms. This test is called an ankle-brachial index, or ABI. Your doctor may do some other tests to look into possible PAD. He or she may also do tests to see if arteries in other parts of your body have atherosclerosis.

What other tests might be done?

Your doctor may order a test to check the blood flow in your leg. This test is often performed in a hospital lab, although some doctors can do a limited version of this test in their office.

A common test for checking the blood flow in your legs is called a PVR (pulse volume recording) study. During this test, cuffs like the ones used to measure blood pressure in your arm are wrapped around your arm and your leg on the same side of your body. Four cuffs are wrapped around your leg--1 at the upper thigh, 1 at the lower thigh, 1 at the upper calf and 1 at the ankle. The cuffs are inflated slightly while you are lying down. As blood pulses through the arteries, the blood vessels expand, causing changes in the amount of air within the cuff. A recording device shows these changes.

If surgery might help treat the symptoms of claudication, your doctor may recommend an arteriography. This is an X-ray taken after dye is injected into an artery. The dye study may show narrowing in an artery and provides a "map" for the doctor who will do the surgery.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 09/00

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