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Screening for Peripheral Arterial Disease

Getting Screened for Peripheral Arterial Disease

With more than eight million people afflicted by peripheral arterial disease – a condition often labeled a “silent killer” – it’s no wonder that more physicians are advising their patients to get screened for PAD. High-risk patients (those over 70 and those over 50 with cardiovascular risk factors) are especially likely to be recommended PAD screening.

Dr. Mansour Assar discusses peripheral arterial disease, diagnosis with angiography, and treatment with stenting.

PAD Screening / Detection / Diagnosis

The decision to get screened for peripheral arterial disease is entirely yours. However, with the ease and convenience of PAD screening, it’s no wonder that so many high-risk individuals are taking the initiative to schedule a screening.

The primary screening method for PAD is the Ankle-Brachial Index Test (also known as an ABI test) – a type of pulse volume recording.During an ABI test, blood pressure cuffs are placed on the arms and legs. The test administrator uses a small handheld ultrasound device to monitor blood pressure and flow. Differences in blood pressure readings (between the arms and legs) may indicate arterial blockage in the legs. Sometimes, this test is performed both at rest and immediately after exercise.

Other PAD Diagnostic Tests

Other tests for diagnosing peripheral arterial disease include:

  • Physical Exam: During a physical, your primary care provider may notice a weak (or even absent) pulse in the arteries of your legs. This is sometimes accompanied by bruits, whooshing sounds of blood passing through a narrowed area, which can be observed via stethoscope.
  • Vascular Ultrasound: During a vascular ultrasound, your physician will use a small handheld transducer to bounce sound waves off the affected artery in your leg. These sound waves help create an image of the arterial blockage, which can be used for perioperative planning purposes during treatment.
  • Angiogram: During an angiogram, your physician will inject you with a small amount of contrast dye. As the contrast dye moves through your body’s vascular system, it can be detected using advanced imaging technology. Depending on the imaging technology, the procedure may be called an ‘MRA’ (magnetic resonance angiogram) or ‘CTA’ (computed tomography angiogram). If your cardiologist intends to diagnose and treat in the same procedure, then he or she may perform a catheter angiogram. In this procedure, the contrast dye is administered via catheter (typically inserted into the femoral artery), and the blockage is cleared via angioplasty – all in the same procedure.
  • Lab Blood Tests: If your physician suspects PAD, then you may be advised to undergo basic lab blood testing. Lab tests may look for elevated triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels, as well as signs of diabetes. 

Your physician may use these tests – or others – to screen for and diagnose peripheral arterial disease. For many patients, a basic ABI test is sufficient for detecting peripheral arterial disease. Early screening may help prevent PAD from causing severe symptoms in the future. Call 602-507-6002 for more information.

For more information, contact Advanced Heart and Vascular Institute in Phoenix, Globe, and Tempe, AZ.


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