The thought of seeing a physician isn’t always pleasant, and the process can vary greatly. Knowing what to expect may help to make the process easier to manage. The following information will give you an idea of what to expect during the PAD diagnosis process.

Physical Exams

Your physician will likely perform a physical exam. The exam involves checking for high blood pressure, heart abnormalities, and blockages in the neck arteries. They will also check the pulse in your legs and feet, ensuring there are no changes in color, ulcers, infections, or injuries. It’s possible that further tests will be ordered if any of these conditions are present.

Your physician will ask about your family history. This is the time for you to share information about any symptoms, past medical history, and family medical history you may have for coronary artery disease and PAD. You should also tell your physician if you have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or other risk factors for PAD.

Blood Flow Measurements

Your physician will perform or refer you for testing to measure your blood flow. Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) is a common test for detecting PAD, because it can help diagnose the disease in patients who may or may not have symptoms. It works by comparing the blood pressure in your ankles with the blood pressure in your arms before and after exercise. This test is important for diagnostic purposes and is non-invasive. This means you will not be sedated or need to be hospitalized in order to undergo this test. ABI may not be an appropriate test if you are a diabetic.

PAD can also be diagnosed with other tests that measure blood flow and pressure such as a segmental pressure test for the legs, Toe-Brachial Index (TBI), and Doppler ultrasound for blood flow in the arteries.


Your physician may decide to take a picture of your arteries to see whether you have restricted blood flow. Contrast angiography is a medical procedure that takes pictures of your blood vessels using an x-ray, so the physician can observe any narrowing or blockage. This can help the physician determine if a medical procedure to address restricted blood flow is necessary. Angiograms are performed by interventional specialists who include cardiologists, radiologists, and vascular surgeons.

An angiogram is an important step in diagnosing PAD. After getting an angiogram, you and your physician will have a better idea of how much plaque has built up in your arteries and how it should be addressed. If you’ve been diagnosed with PAD, you have several treatment options.

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