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Peripheral Vascular Disease (cont.)

More Exams and Tests

Treadmill exercise test: If necessary, the ABI will be followed by a treadmill exercise test.

  • Blood pressures in your arms and legs will be taken before and after exercise (walking on a treadmill, usually until you have symptoms).
  • A significant drop in leg blood pressures and ABIs after exercise suggests peripheral vascular disease.
  • Alternative tests are available if you are unable to walk on a treadmill.
  • If the leg pulses are not palpable, the use of a portable Doppler flow probe will quickly reveal the absence or presence of an arterial flow.

To help locate blockages in your blood vessels, any of several tests, such as angiography, ultrasonography, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), can be used.

Angiography, or arteriography, is a type of X-ray.

  • An X-ray dye is injected into the arteries in question; the dye highlights blockages and narrowing of arteries on an X-ray. This is an invasive study performed in a catheterization or interventional radiology laboratory. The X-ray dye must be excreted by the kidneys. If you have diabetes or already have kidney damage, the dye may precipitate further damage to your kidneys and, rarely, cause acute renal or kidney failure requiring dialysis.
  • Some people describe the angiogram (X-ray obtained from angiography) as a "road map" of the arteries.
  • Angiography has for many years been considered the best test available and has been used to guide further treatment and surgery.
  • Certain treatments for blocked arteries can be performed at the same time, such as angioplasty. A specialist called an interventional radiologist or an invasive cardiologist can perform these treatments.
  • Imaging techniques, such as ultrasonography and MRI, are preferred more and more because they are less invasive and work just as well. With either of these two techniques, angioplasty cannot be done.

Ultrasonography uses sound waves to find abnormalities.

  • A handheld device that emits ultrasound waves is placed on the skin over the part of the body being tested. It is noninvasive and painless.
  • You cannot hear or see the waves; they "bounce" off structures under your skin and give an accurate picture. Any abnormalities in the vessels or obstruction of blood flow can be seen.
  • This safe technique is the same method used to look at a fetus in pregnancy.

MRI is a type of X-ray. Rather than radiation, MRI uses a magnetic field to obtain an image of internal structures. It gives a very accurate and detailed image of blood vessels. This technique is also noninvasive.

Several other tests are used under certain circumstances. Your health care provider can explain why he or she recommends that certain tests be performed.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/28/2015
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Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a nearly pandemic condition that has the potential to cause loss of limb or even loss of life.

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