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Ankle-Brachial Index Test

This test is done by measuring blood pressure at the ankle and in the arm while a person is at rest. Measurements are usually repeated at both sites after 5 minutes of walking on a treadmill.

The ankle-brachial index (ABI) result is used to predict the severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). A slight drop in your ABI with exercise means that you probably have PAD. This drop may be important, because PAD can be linked to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.

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Why It Is Done

This test is done to screen for peripheral arterial disease of the legs. It is also used to see how well a treatment is working (such as medical treatment, an exercise program, angioplasty, or surgery).

Results

The ABI result can help diagnose peripheral arterial disease (PAD). A lower ABI means you might have PAD. A slight drop in the ABI with exercise, even if you have a normal ABI at rest, means that you probably have PAD.

Normal

A normal resting ankle-brachial index is 1.0 to 1.4. This means that your blood pressure at your ankle is the same or greater than the pressure at your arm, and suggests that you do not have significant narrowing or blockage of blood flow.1

Abnormal

An abnormal resting ankle-brachial index is 0.9 or lower. If the ABI is 0.91 to 0.99, it is considered borderline abnormal.1

What To Think About

You may experience leg pain during the treadmill portion of the test if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Undiagnosed arterial disease in the arms can cause inaccurate test results.

Blood pressure readings may not be accurate when the blood vessel being measured is hardened by calcium (calcified). Arteries may calcify more than usual if you have diabetes or kidney problems (renal insufficiency).

A very abnormal ABI test result may require more testing to determine the location and severity of PAD that might be present.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Citations

  1. Rooke TW, et al. (2011). 2011 ACCF/AHA Focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (Updating the 2005 guideline): A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 58(19): 2020–2045.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Last Revised October 18, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 18, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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