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Florida Vein Specialists Explain the Ankle-Brachial Index Test

Florida Vein Specialists: What is the Ankle-Brachial Index?

Heart disease, arterial disease, and vein disease are very different medical conditions that are diagnosed and treated equally differently. Interestingly, however, there is one diagnostic test you might encounter whether you are seeking vein treatment in Palm Beach or whether you are having your regular checkup for heart and cardiovascular disease.

The procedure in question is called the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, and it is used to detect the presence and severity of vascular diseases such as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) or peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The test itself is painless and only takes a few minutes, but it tells your doctor a great deal more about the state of your blood vessels than a normal blood pressure reading.

Why is an ABI test performed?

A normal blood pressure reading is measured only at the arm, and provides the doctor with a “snapshot” of what your blood pressure is at one location in the body at one moment in time. Quite literally, if measured again a few minutes later, you might be found to have a very different blood pressure. Plus, the standard blood pressure tests measure only internal blood pressure, while providing no information about how efficiently blood is flowing through your blood vessels. ABI tests provide a painless, non-invasive way that doctors can tell if your arteries and veins are blocked or narrowed, and thus impairing your circulation.

ABI tests are often performed if a Palm Beach cardiologist suspects that you may be suffering from PAD or CVI on the basis of other symptoms, or if you have higher than normal risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high overall blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, or being overweight. ABI tests may also be performed on a regular basis to measure a patient’s progress while being treated for heart, arterial, or vein disease.

How is an ABI test administered?

When you have an ankle-brachial index test, your blood pressure is measured in two different locations simultaneously. The most common locations for the test are with one cuff placed on the arm and the other placed at the ankle (thus the name of the test). The whole process is as painless and non-invasive as any standard blood pressure measurement, just taken in two locations at once.

The two readings are taken and then compared against each other to determine the ankle-brachial index. A normal, resting ABI index in a healthy person should be in the range of 1.0 to 1.4, which means that the blood pressure measured at your ankle is the same or greater than the pressure measured at your arm. This is an indication that blood is traveling through your blood vessels efficiently.

Abnormal or unhealthy ABI values are 0.9 or lower and 1.41 and higher. These values indicate that you have different blood pressure levels at the two points of measurement, and thus that you have a high possibility of having narrowed arteries, blood clots, or venous insufficiency. If this is the case, that is a signal to your Delray Beach cardiologist or Florida vein specialist that more extensive tests may be necessary, such as the use of Duplex ultrasound, which allows him to actually visualize the blood flowing through the veins. Abnormal ABI values should be taken seriously, because they indicate a higher-than-normal risk of heart attack or stroke.

Do I need to prepare for an ABI test?

Not really. Unlike blood cholesterol level tests, for which you usually are asked to fast overnight, there is nothing you need to do to “prepare” for an ABI test.

And that’s about all you need to know about ABI tests themselves. They are a valuable weapon in the arsenal of Florida vein specialists to help them fight cardiovascular disease and keep you healthy. If you’d like to learn more about ABI tests or any of the other diagnostic procedures we use, see our website at or give us a call at 561-515-0080. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

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Hospital Affiliations

Our physicians have privileges and daily round at Bethesda East Hospital, Bethesda West Hospital and Delray Medical Center.