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Peripheral Vascular Disease (cont.)

Exams and Tests

The classic symptom of leg pain on walking that stops with rest is a good indication of peripheral vascular disease. However, only about 40% of people with peripheral vascular disease have intermittent claudication.

Upon hearing your symptoms, your health care provider will formulate a list of possibilities.

  • He or she will probably suspect intermittent claudication and several other conditions.
  • How strongly he or she suspects peripheral vascular disease will depend largely on your risk factors.
  • If you are young, healthy, active, and don't smoke, for example, peripheral vascular disease will not be a primary consideration.
  • On the other hand, if you are older than 50 years, smoke, have diabetes, are overweight, are inactive, and have a family history of high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease will be a primary consideration.
  • The absence of a pulse in the legs or the arms will immediately result in a workup to rule out peripheral vascular disease.

Rose criteria: A test used by many medical professionals to screen for peripheral vascular disease is a series of 9 questions called the Rose criteria. The answers to these questions indicate whether you have peripheral vascular disease and how severe it is.

Ankle/brachial index: One of the most widely used tests for a person who has symptoms suggesting intermittent claudication is the Ankle/Brachial Index (ABI).

  • This test compares the blood pressure in the arm (brachial) with the blood pressure in the legs.
  • In a person with healthy blood vessels, the pressure should be higher in the legs than in the arms.
  • The blood pressure is taken in both arms in the usual way. It is then taken at both ankles.
  • The pressure at each ankle is divided by the higher of the 2 pressures from the arms.
  • An ABI above 0.90 is normal; 0.70-0.90 indicates mild peripheral vascular disease; 0.50-0.70 indicates moderate disease; and less than 0.50 indicates severe peripheral vascular disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2014
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