What is an Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) Screening?

An ankle-brachial index (ABI) screening is a diagnostic test used to diagnose vascular conditions affecting blood flow, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD).

What You Should Know:

An ABI screening is simple, non-invasive, and can provide important information about the presence and severity of vascular conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD) in the legs. PAD is a common but progressive condition, which means early detection is crucial to slowing progress. The test compares the blood pressure in the ankles to the blood pressure in the arms to determine how well blood is flowing.

Could PAD be Affecting Your Legs?

Take Our Free Online Assessment to Find Out

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory condition that can lead to leg pain and walking problems. Our easy-to-use online self-assessment can help determine if you may be at risk for PAD and if you should schedule a consultation with a vascular specialist to discuss further testing.

When is ABI Testing Used?

An ABI test is often recommended for people who have risk factors for peripheral artery disease like smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of PAD. Screening is recommended for early detection. If you are experiencing common symptoms of PAD, such as leg pain when walking that is relieved by rest, leg numbness, cold legs, or poor wound healing in the feet, an ABI test may be recommended.

Common conditions diagnosed using ABI testing include:

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Leg ulcers 
  • Blood clots
  • Vascular damage
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke risk
  • Leg numbness or pain

What to Expect
During an ABI Test

How To Prepare 

Before scheduling an ABI test, you may need to take a self-assessment to evaluate if an ABI test is medically necessary for your situation. Many insurance companies require a patient to take a self-assessment or screening questionnaire before they will cover the cost of an ABI test. If it is determined that you are a good candidate for an ABI test after your self-assessment, schedule a test with your physician. No additional preparation is needed for an ABI test; just be sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your wrists and ankles.   

During The Test

ABI testing typically only takes about 10-20 minutes to complete. During an ABI test, a standard blood pressure cuff is placed around each arm to measure the arm’s systolic pressure. Blood pressure cuffs are also placed on each ankle to measure the systolic pressure in the posterior tibial artery and dorsalis pedis artery of each leg. These leg blood pressure readings are compared to the higher of the two arm readings.

A normal ABI score is between 0.9 and 1.3, meaning the ankle systolic pressure is within 90-130% of the arm pressure. A score of 0.9 to 1.3 rules out PAD.
An ABI score lower than 0.9 may indicate some level of PAD or blockage in the leg arteries. The lower the ABI value, the more severe the arterial narrowing. An ABI score below 0.4 signals advanced PAD with over 60% arterial blockage. 


After The Test

An ABI will help identify any existing arterial blockages. Depending on the results of your ABI test, additional testing may be needed to diagnose PAD or other underlying conditions. If needed, the test can be repeated over time to monitor disease progression.

Benefits of ABI Testing

ABI testing is advantageous for screening, diagnosis, monitoring, and prognostic information related to peripheral arterial disease and circulatory disorders affecting the limbs.

Benefits of ABI testing:

  • Effectively identify any existing arterial blockages and signs of PAD
  • Non-invasive and does not require surgery
  • Provides immediate results in a brief office visit
  • Detects reduced blood flow early to prevent complications

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If you are experiencing symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD), take our self-assessment to determine if you are a candidate for ABI testing. Early intervention can help effectively manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Request a consultation with one of our vascular specialists to discuss available testing options.

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