What is the ankle-brachial index (ABI)?

The ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a simple, noninvasive test for peripheral artery disease (PAD). It can be used to find out if you have PAD and to monitor you if you have PAD.

The ABI can show how severe PAD is, but it cannot identify the exact location of the blood vessels that are blocked or narrowed.

What is peripheral artery disease (PAD)?

Peripheral artery disease causes poor blood flow to the legs and other parts of the body. This happens when the blood vessels are blocked or narrowed (arteriosclerosis).

Peripheral artery disease increases your risk of having a stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA/mini-stroke), heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PAD can include pain or cramping in the legs or thighs when you exercise, and numbness or paleness of your legs and feet.

Diagnosing and Tests

What are the advantages of the ABI test?

The ABI is the preferred way to diagnose PAD because it is simple, fast and sensitive. The test takes about 10 to 20 minutes and can be done in your doctor’s office or an outpatient clinic. The test does not cause any long-term problems.

Your doctor may want you to have an ABI test if you:

You should not have the ABI test if you have excruciating leg pain, cut(s) on your legs or feet or deep vein thrombosis.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/03/2019.

References

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Peripheral Artery Disease. Accessed 6/19/2018.
  • Society for Vascular Surgery. Ankle-Brachial Index or ABI Test. Accessed 6/19/2018.
  • Marcus Rac-Albu, Luminita Iliuta, Suzana Maria Guberna and Crina Sinescu.The Role of Ankle-Brachial Index for Predicting Peripheral Arterial Disease. Maedica (Buchar), 2014 Sep: 9(3): 295-302.
  • Tahir H. Khan, Falahat A. Farooqui and Khusrow Niazi. Critical Review of the Ankle Brachial Index. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2008 May, 4(2) 101-106.

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