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The ankle-brachial index test is a quick, noninvasive way to check for peripheral artery disease (PAD). The disease occurs when narrowed arteries reduce the blood flow to your limbs. PAD can cause leg pain when walking and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The ankle-brachial index test compares the blood pressure measured at your ankle with the blood pressure measured at your arm. A low ankle-brachial index number can indicate narrowing or blockage of the arteries in your legs.

You may have ankle-brachial index testing before and immediately after walking on a treadmill. An exercise ankle-brachial index test can assess the severity of the narrowed arteries during walking.

Why it's done

The ankle-brachial index test is done to check for PAD — narrowed arteries that reduce blood flow, usually in your legs. Research indicates that PAD affects about 10 percent of people over age 55.

Your doctor might recommend an ankle-brachial index test if you have leg pain while walking or risk factors for PAD, such as:

  • History of tobacco use
  • Diabetes High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Restricted blood flow (atherosclerosis) in other parts of your body

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