What is the Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) Test?

 The Ankle Brachial Index test, also referred to as simply the ABI test, is a way of checking your risk of peripheral artery disease. This means that the ABI test is performed to see how well your blood is flowing to your extremities. It allows doctors to see if you have any blockages in your arteries so they can be addressed and avoid any further complications. It’s quick and noninvasive, so you can return to your normal routine immediately.

As mentioned, the ABI test is a way of determining the strength and efficiency of your blood flow to your extremities. Sometimes, arteries narrow, and it becomes increasingly difficult for your blood to reach certain parts of your body. When this happens, your limbs will not receive an adequate amount of blood to properly function. If your limbs aren’t receiving the proper amount of blood flow, you may start to experience numbing, tingling sensations, pain, heaviness, cramping, or aching. It also increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Why is the Ankle Brachial Index Test Important?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which the arteries in the legs or arms are narrowed or blocked. When this happens, your risk for heart attack, stroke, poor circulation, and leg pain increase exponentially. The Ankle Brachial Index can test for PAD and help you determine the underlying cause so that it can be addressed. Therefore, the ABI test is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of having a preventable heart attack or stroke due to poor circulation.

You may be at a higher risk for PAD if you have a history of tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or restricted blood flow in other parts of your body.1 Always talk to your doctor about your health history and keep an honest line of communication.

If you’re diagnosed with PAD, your doctor will advise you on a treatment plan that will help improve your day-to-day function and lower your chances of serious complications from PAD.

How the Ankle Brachial Index Test Works

The ABI test is fast, easy, and pain-free. It lasts approximately 5-30 minutes and is done using a noninvasive method. You’ll lie flat on a table, or slightly reclined, and your doctor will wrap a cuff around your arm to take your blood pressure.1 This is the same as any blood pressure reading you typically get in a physical exam or at the start of a doctor’s visit. Once the device is inflated, your doctor will use a Doppler ultrasound device so that they can hear your blood flow.1 Again, this is a pain-free process and all you will feel is a cool sensation where the gel is applied.

This is repeated on both arms and then both legs. Your doctor will then compare all of your blood pressure readings with each other. A low Ankle Brachial Index number can indicate narrowing or blockage of the arteries in your legs, which can contribute to the problems we mentioned above. A normal reading is one that falls somewhere between 0.9 and 1.4. However, anything lower than 0.9 is an indication of PAD and anything higher than a 1.4 indicates stiff arteries and may require further testing. Your doctor will talk you through your results and then discuss any treatment options that you may need.

Some of the treatment options for PAD include lifestyle changes, medicine, procedures like an angioplasty, or in severe cases, surgery. Always follow your doctor’s treatment plan and contact them if you have any questions at all.

If you have any symptoms of PAD, including leg pain, heaviness, numbing, or weakness in the legs, less hair on your legs than normal, pale or blueish skin tone, one leg that’s colder than the other, sores on your toes, feet, and legs that don’t heal properly, toenails that are growing more slowly than usual, or trouble getting an erection1, call AZ Chiropractic today. The doctors at AZ Chiropractic are equipped to perform an Ankle Brachial Index test and, based on the results, will create an individualized treatment plan that will help you improve your function, ease uncomfortable symptoms, and lower your risk of serious complications. Give us a call today to learn more.