If the GP suspects peripheral arterial disease (PAD), they'll first carry out a physical examination of your legs.

The GP will look for symptoms such as:

The GP may also ask about your personal and family medical histories.

The ankle brachial pressure index

The ankle brachial pressure index (ABPI) test is widely used to diagnose PAD, as well as assess how well you're responding to treatment.

If your circulation is healthy, the blood pressure in both parts of your body should be exactly or almost the same. This would make the result of your ABPI 1.

However, if you have PAD, the blood pressure in your ankle will be lower because of a reduction in blood supply. This would make the result of the ABPI less than 1.

In some cases, ABPI may be carried out after you run on a treadmill or cycle on an exercise bike. This is to see the effect of physical activity on your circulation.

This is usually carried out in hospital because most GP surgeries do not have the facilities to perform this test.

Further testing

In most cases, the GP will be able to confirm a diagnosis of PAD by doing a physical examination, asking about your symptoms and checking your ABPI score.

Further testing is usually only required if:

Additional hospital-based tests that may be carried out include:

In some cases, the contrast agent may be injected directly into the arteries of your leg and X-rays may be used to produce the images.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2022