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Arterial Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is peripheral arterial disease (PAD)?

A. PAD, more commonly known as hardening of the arteries, is a condition in which the large and medium-sized arteries supplying blood to the legs become narrow or clogged, constricting the flow of blood. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, a gradual process in which cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called plaque that clogs the artery.

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Q. Can participants with blood clots in their legs have an ankle-brachial index (ABI) screening?

A. No. If a participant has a history of blood clots and is unsure if the blood clots have been resolved, we require a note from his or her physician stating that the participant has no known blood clots in the legs. We cannot perform the screening without this verification.

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Q. Can a participant who has had a mastectomy have an ABI?

A. Yes. We take the pressure in the other arm and use that to formulate a ratio. We do this because when a patient has had surgery for breast cancer, usually lymph nodes under the arm are removed as well. Compression of the lymph system of the arm can lead to prolonged painful swelling.

If you’ve had a double mastectomy, we will perform the screening on whichever arm you use to have blood pressure taken. You may want to check with your doctor before your screening to find out which arm is preferable.

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Q. What does it mean if the arteries do not compress?

A. Non-compressibility is due to vascular disease of the walls of the vessels. This leads to the participant receiving an abnormal reading. It is most commonly seen in people who have diabetes, although it may also happen in individuals who do not.

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Q. Can a participant with heart disease have an ABI?

A. Yes. This is a very good reason to have the screening done. People who have heart disease are at higher risk for peripheral arterial disease. Likewise, people who have an abnormal ABI are 3 to 5 times more likely to have coronary artery disease.

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Q. Does a lower ratio mean more severe arterial disease than a higher abnormal ratio?

A. Yes. The lower the ratio, the more severe the arterial disease is.

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Q. Can the ABI show any problems with venous disease (deep venous thrombosis, phlebitis, varicose veins)?

A. No. The ABI screens for peripheral arterial disease only. We do not conduct venous disease testing.

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