What is an ABI Test?

Aug 6, 2022

Do you ever feel pain in your legs after walking or climbing stairs? Or wonder why one leg is always colder to the touch than the other? You may brush it off as aging or just a fluke, but those can be symptoms of a circulation problem sneaking up on you.

Here at Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates, we have a quick and easy test that can determine if the circulation in your legs is slowing down. That’s important to know because circulation problems are often a sign of more severe problems to come.

If you’re having leg pain or other symptoms, ask us about a Smart-ABI test. It’s a fast, painless way to see if you’re at risk for a problem with your circulation called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Finding out now can make a world of difference later.

What is Smart-ABI or Smart Ankle Brachial Index?

Smart-ABI is a device that uses blood pressure cuffs and Bluetooth technology to perform a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI), which measures blood flow in the arms and legs. The ABI compares the blood pressures in your ankles to the blood pressures in your arms and calculates an index number based on the differences. The index number can indicate narrowed arteries in your legs and how severe the narrowing is. Narrowing of the arteries in the arms and legs is called peripheral artery disease (PAD). It’s a slowly developing condition that can have life-altering complications if it isn’t detected and treated.

PAD is most often caused by a fatty build-up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. Our doctor may suggest a Smart-ABI test based on your symptoms, health, and family health history. Some people are more at risk of developing PAD than others. Common risk factors include:

  • Age – PAD is more common in those over 65
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease, PAD, or stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Personal history of heart disease or stroke
  • Smoking

What is PAD and Why Should You Be Concerned?

Many people with PAD don’t have symptoms or have symptoms so mild they aren’t aware there’s a problem. Others may have leg pain or cramping (called claudication) while walking that feels better at rest. This occurs because PAD prevents your arteries from delivering enough oxygen to your muscles.

Some other symptoms of PAD include:

  • Cold lower leg and foot, especially noticeable when compared to the other leg.
  • Fatigue when walking.
  • Numbness or weakness in the leg.
  • Cramping in the hips, thighs, or calf muscles after activity.
  • Changes in skin color, shiny skin, and slower hair and toenail growth on the affected leg.
  • A week pulse, or lack of pulse, in the legs or feet.
  • Sores on the legs, feet, or toes that don’t heal.
  • Arm pain when doing everyday tasks like writing.
  • Erectile dysfunction.

As PAD worsens, the pain will eventually occur at rest or when you’re lying down. The danger in PAD is that your muscles and other tissues can’t function properly without enough blood flow to deliver nutrients and oxygen to them.

Leg sores from PAD, and other leg injuries, simply can’t heal without the nutrients in the blood. Without healing nutrients, those sores and injuries can develop gangrene fairly quickly. There is no cure for gangrene – tissue damaged by gangrene must be amputated – but there are treatments to keep it from getting worse. Fast treatment can keep gangrene from getting worse, but the best prevention is to diagnose and treat PAD before it gets that bad.

ABI testing can help you get the treatment you need to avoid the risk of future surgeries and amputations.

ABI Test and PAD explained

What is it Like to Take an ABI Test?

The test itself is quick, easy, and painless. It uses comfortable, non-invasive blood pressure cuffs similar to the ones you’re used to seeing in every doctor’s office. The difference is that they are smaller, have small digital displays, and there are four of them. Dr. DePalma will position one on each arm and ankle. The test uses Bluetooth technology to send data to an app for Dr. DePalma to analyze, including the blood pressure at each location, a comparison of the pressures in your arms and legs, and additional data about the blood flow recovery after the cuffs squeeze and release.

It’s a quick and painless test – in five minutes, Dr. DePalma will have accurate data about your risk for PAD. If the data from your lower legs point to PAD, you can begin treatment immediately to reduce your chances of developing severe complications.

Why Should You Get an ABI Test Done?

The sooner you know, the sooner you can prevent complications. PAD isn’t only about leg pain. In fact, PAD doesn’t always have symptoms at first. Whether you feel it or not, PAD can indicate your risk of developing a life-threatening condition.

PAD is most often caused by fatty deposits in the arteries containing cholesterol, called plaque. Plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis. The same types of buildup that causes PAD can affect other blood vessels. Plague buildup in the blood vessels that supply the heart and brain is often a cause of stroke or heart attack. Finding plaque early saves lives.

ABI testing can confirm whether you have PAD and indicate your risk of developing a complication like gangrene, stroke, or heart attack. Knowing your risk before you develop complications means you can make changes to help prevent them.

That’s a significant impact for such a quick and painless test!

Contact Us for More Information and to Get Tested!

If you’re concerned about PAD because of your health or family history, ask us about a Smart-ABI test. The sooner we find the signs of PAD, the sooner we can start talking about ways to prevent serious complications.

Call us at (609) 714-0052, or fill out our contact form online to schedule an appointment for a Smart-ABI test!


520 Stokes Road,
Suite C-5
Medford, NJ 08055

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