Leg Pain (Ankle Brachial Index) Screenings

Check back for a listing of upcoming screening dates.

Ankle Brachial Index Screenings are for people who have one or more of the following:

  • A history of smoking for 10 or more years
  • Had diabetes for many years
  • A personal history of heart disease or stroke
  • Pain in your legs when you walk that goes away when you stop walking
  • Are age 65 or older

When attending the screening, please wear shoes and socks that are easily removed and pants and sleeves that allow us to get to your lower legs and arms easily.  This screening includes taking a blood pressure on both your arms and both your legs.

What is this screening for?

Why Should I Get an ABI Screening?

An ABI (ankle-brachial index) screening is a simple way to find out if you may have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).  PAD, also called atherosclerosis, poor circulation or hardening of the arteries.  It develops over time and may not appear until later in life.

The ABI screening measures the blood pressure in your arms and ankles. A math calculation is then done to see how the blood is flowing between the top and bottom of your body.   If there is a problem, you will need to see your doctor for more testing and possible treatment.

What Happens During the Screening?

You will be asked to lie on your back while blood pressure cuffs are placed around your ankles and arms. Your blood pressure will be taken and your risk will be calculated.

Who Should Get This Screening?

This is not a screening that everyone needs.  It is not good for athletic leg pain or sleep problems that affect the legs.   We limit this screening to people who have one or more of these items:

  • Are age 65 or older
  • Have had diabetes for 10 years or more
  • A heavy smoker
  • A personal history of heart disease or stroke
  • Has leg pain when walking that goes away when they stop walking

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when plaque (plak) builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs and legs. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue and other things in your blood.

When plaque builds up in your arteries, it is called atherosclerosis (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis). Over time, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries.   When less blood flows to some parts of your body, those parts do not get the oxygen that is carried in your blood.

PAD usually affects the legs, but also can affect the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys and stomach.

Leg Ill.
This picture shows how PAD can affect the arteries in your legs.
Figure A shows a normal artery with normal blood flow. The inset image shows a cross-section of the normal artery.
Figure B shows an artery with plaque buildup that’s partially blocking blood flow. The inset image shows a cross-section of the narrowed artery.

Blocked blood flow to your legs can cause pain and numbness. It also can raise your risk of getting an infection in the affected limbs. It may be hard for your body to fight the infection.

If bad enough, blocked blood flow can cause tissue death (gangrene). In very serious cases, this can lead to leg amputation (your leg being removed).

If you have leg pain when you walk or climb stairs, talk to your doctor. Sometimes older people think leg pain is a symptom of aging. However, the cause could be PAD. Tell your doctor if you're feeling pain in your legs and discuss if you should be tested for PAD.

Smoking is the main risk factor for PAD. If you smoke or have a history of smoking, your risk for PAD increases four times. Other factors, such as age and having certain diseases or conditions, such as diabetes, also increase your risk.

Although PAD is serious, it’s treatable. If you have the disease, it’s important to see your doctor regularly and treat the underlying atherosclerosis.

PAD treatment may slow or stop the disease and reduce the risk of complications. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery or procedures.