Ankle Brachial Index ABI
A test performed to diagnose Peripheral Arterial Disease
What is an ABI – Ankle Brachial Index
ABI stands for Ankle Brachial Index, and it’s a test that’s performed to diagnose a condition called PAD, or Peripheral Arterial Disease. The test compares the blood pressure in your lower extremities to that of your arm. If there’s a significant difference between the two, it could be a sign that your blood is not flowing as well as it should.
Heart Failure is a condition in which the heart works both harder and less efficiently to sustain itself. PAD can cause heart failure, and it can feel like a squeezing pain near your chest, especially during times of stress—like when you’re exercising or in an argument.
PAD also carries a high risk of stroke or heart attack, so it’s important that this condition be accurately diagnosed.
Why might I need an ABI?
• You’re at risk for PAD
Even if you don’t show the respective symptoms for PAD, you can still have it—or be at risk. PAD is a condition that often goes unnoticed until it starts causing problems. As this test is relatively simple and quick to perform, it is often included as part of a Check-Up for older individuals.
• You have share symptoms with PAD
PAD is often called ‘Window Shoppers Disease’ because patients will often take a break from walking and stare into shop windows. They take this break because they begin to feel the cramping pain that characterizes PAD in their calves. If you have some of the following symptoms, you should strongly consider having an ABI test performed.
Symptoms of PAD
• Pale, or even bluish skin
• Cramping sensations within the calf
• Hair loss in the legs
• Open cuts and sores heal more slowly
• Toe nails that don’t seem to grow back out
• One ‘heavy’ leg
• Trouble getting and maintaining an erection
If you know you have PAD, your doctor might also use this test as an indicator of treatment progress.
Ankle Brachial Index Procedure
The procedure that follows for an ABI test is relatively simple and usually takes less than 15 minutes.
• Lie down on a table
• Doctor finds the blood pressure in your arms using an inflatable cuff
• Doctor finds the blood pressure in your ankles by using an inflatable cuff. He may also employ the use of a portable ultrasound to visualize the blood flow.
• In situations where the arteries within the ankles are too calcified to be measured, the doctor can use the ultrasound to take the ABI.
• The ratio of the blood pressure in the arms and legs is then calculated
If exercise induces your PAD, your doctor may have you do some brief walking before he takes your ABI.
Results of an Ankle Brachial Index Test
• Below 0.9 – a number below 0.9 indicates there is most likely some blockage within your arteries. The lower the magnitude of the number, the more severe the blockages may be.
• 0.9-1.4 – This is the range we want to shoot for. An ABI between 0.9-1.4 means you’re good to go—your arteries and blood flow are healthy!
• Greater than 1.4 – When an ABI reads higher than 1.4, it is usually a good indicator that the arteries within the legs and ankles are very calcified, and further intervention may be needed.
However, results often differ from patient to patient. Your doctor can and will talk to you about your results mean.
What to do
If you perform ABI test and are positive for PAD, then your doctor will prescribe a list of life style changes and, in the worst-case scenario, surgery. Your best interests lie in making life style changes early and avoiding the problem all together.
Make healthier food choices and include some light physical exercise within your daily regimen!