Diagnostic Tests For Peripheral Artery Disease

Diagnostic Tests For Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is very common among the elderly and those of African American descent. This disease affects the blood flow to the lower extremities, which can lead to gangrene and potential amputation. There are many things that an individual can do to reduce their risks of getting peripheral artery disease. Changing your lifestyle will be the first step to increasing longevity and improving your life.

Debilitating Illness

Peripheral artery disease can lead to debilitation, if it is not treated properly. Many individuals that are plagued with this disease will tend to ignore the symptoms, until it is too late. The decreased blood flow to the lower extremities can lead to gangrene, which in incurable. The body tissue will die and clostridium perfringens bacteria will set in, which can be life threatening. The bacteria will go systemic (throughout the body) and be very fatal. The only way to stop the spread of gangrene is amputation of the body part.

Those At Risk

Many experts have discovered a long list of risk factors that are linked to peripheral artery disease. Smoking is one of the highest risks and can increase your chances of developing symptoms earlier than if you did not smoke. Obesity is another risk factor, because it is linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Elderly individuals are at higher risk, because they are not very active and have other illness, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Diagnostic Testing

To get a clear diagnosis, the physician will complete a thorough physical evaluation and interview. During the interview, you will be asked several questions that are necessary for the process. The physical exam will consist of collecting blood pressures from the upper and lower extremities and comparing them. This will show the physician, if the blood flow is sufficient in the lower extremities. Pulses will also be tested and checked in the femoral, popliteal, and the dorsalis pedis, which will provide enough information to warrant further testing.

A lower extremity (leg) magnetic resonance imaging, which is a non-invasive test that will produce pictures of the leg. This test can be ordered with or without contrast (IVP dye). This test is very expensive and is only ordered in more severe cases of peripheral artery disease. You will have to stay stationary on a bed for thirty minutes to an hour, while the machine collects its information.

A computed tomography angiography is a mildly invasive test that is completed by a radiologist. A contrast is injected in the veins (normally in the leg) so that a more defined picture of the blood vessels can be captured. This test is not as pricy as the MRI and is ordered three to four times more often to assist in diagnosing peripheral artery disease.

If you are a nursing home patient, a Doppler ultrasound will be ordered. The sonographer will come to your room and perform the test, while you are sitting in a chair or lying in a bed. This is a very non-invasive test that will pick up the blood flow quantities in the lower extremities.