How is peripheral arterial disease (PAD) diagnosed and treated?

Premier Health’s Dr. Gary Fishbein discusses diagnosis and treatment of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


There are a variety of testing methods doctors may use to determine if you have peripheral arterial disease. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on results—i.e., the location and severity of artery blockage.

A patient’s vascular history and description of symptoms may be enough for a doctor to diagnose peripheral arterial disease (PAD). However, confirming the diagnosis and/or assessing the location and severity of the blockage may require further testing. The National Center for Biotechnology InformationOff Site Icon (NCBI) outlines a number of diagnostic tests, including:

  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI)—compares blood pressure in the ankle and arm to determine if blood flow is restricted to limbs. This test may be done before and after exercise on a treadmill.
  • Doppler ultrasound—uses sound waves to create an image of blood flow in the major arteries of the legs.
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram—uses magnetic and radio waves to create an image of blood flow in the legs.
  • Arteriogram—uses a contrast dye visible on an X-ray to determine where blood flow is restricted.

Most of the tests to diagnose peripheral arterial disease are non- or minimally invasive. However, more invasive tests may be necessary to pinpoint the exact location of arterial blockage.

Treatment for peripheral arterial disease is based on the severity of the condition. From least invasive to most invasive, treatment options include:

  • Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise
  • Medications
  • Vascular surgery, including angioplasty, bypass and/or endarterectomy (atherectomy)

Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist for treatment.

Talk to your doctor to find out if you have peripheral arterial disease and what treatment options may work best for you.

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