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Three Ways to Screen for Peripheral Vascular Disease

Author: Sina Nafisi, M.D., FACC

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) – also known as peripheral artery disease (PAD) – occurs when the blood vessels that supply the arms and legs with oxygenated blood become blocked. This is typically caused by atherosclerosis (plaque build-up).

Most physicians and medical authorities advise against getting routine PVD screenings, as tests could cause unnecessary worry and concern for low-risk patients – not to mention the fact that they incur unnecessary expenses. However, if you are at risk for peripheral vascular disease, then a PVD screening could save your life.

Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease

  • Difficulty walking
  • Discoloration of skin in the feet, legs, or arms
  • Sores on toes and feet
  • Numbness, weakness, or burning sensations in feet or toes
  • Pain or cramping in leg muscles during activity

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, let your physician know immediately. A PVD screening could reveal whether or not you have (or are at risk for) peripheral vascular disease.

3 PVD Screening Techniques

  1. Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) Test. This simple, non-invasive test is usually the physician’s first choice in screening for peripheral vascular disease. The systolic blood pressure in your ankle is compared to the systolic blood pressure in the arm. The ratio could inform your physician of your PVD risk.

  2. Doppler Ultrasound. An ultrasound can be used to monitor blood flow through your blood vessels. Your physician may notice a blockage in the arms or legs if you have PVD.

  3. Angiogram. If your physician has reason to believe you may have PVD, then he or she could call for an angiogram. In this test, a contrast dye is injected into the bloodstream. The technician then uses x-ray imaging, a CT-scan, or a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to observe the contrast dye move through the bloodstream. This test may reveal blockages or stenosis (narrowing) of the arteries.

These are just a few of the ways your physician may screen for PVD. Talk to your doctor to learn more. Or, contact Phoenix Heart Center for more information about peripheral vascular disease screening.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.



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