Screening for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

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The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions. There are no screening tests for PAD itself, however, your doctor will screen for risk factors that contribute to vascular disease by doing the following at regular checkups:

  • Blood pressure measurements
  • Blood tests to measure cholesterol and glucose levels
  • Body weight checks, such as checking your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference
  • Questions about your lifestyle habits, such as eating, smoking, and exercise

If you are at high risk for PAD, your doctor may want further evaluation such as:

  • Visual inspection —Your doctor should look carefully at the skin of all of your limbs during regular check-ups. Changes in skin texture and/or color, the presence of ulcerations or nonhealing wounds may indicate PAD.
  • Pulses —Your doctor can listen and feel for pulses in your feet and groin. Bruits, abnormal sounds in the arteries heard with a stethoscope, and weak pulses, are signs of possible PAD.
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI) —To determine the ABI, your doctor takes pressures in both arms and ankles using a blood pressure cuff and a simple device to detect blood flow called a Doppler. The blood pressure readings are then used to calculate your ABI. A value less than or equal to 0.9 signals PAD.

Revision Information

  • How can peripheral arterial disease be prevented? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/prevention.html. Updated June 2, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.

  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.

  • Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-PAD%5FUCM%5F301308%5FArticle.jsp. Updated February 26, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.