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Ankle brachial pressure indices test

Patient information A-Z

A patient's foot on a hospital couch with a blood pressure cuff around the ankle. A vascular scientist holds a pen-like probe on the patient’s ankle whilst inflating the cuff.

What are ankle brachial pressure indices (ABPIs)?

This test may also be called a 'Doppler test'. It involves taking a blood pressure reading of your upper arms (at the level of the brachial artery) and ankles. The blood pressure in your arms and ankles should be the same, when you are lying down. In people with narrowed/ blocked arteries in their legs, the blood pressure in the ankle will be lower than that in the arm.

This test is a safe and effective way to assess if there is any disease in the arteries in your legs. This will allow the consultant to plan the appropriate treatment for you.

The test is painless and does not use any radiation or needles. There are no risks or side effects associated with this test.

About the test

Where to go

The Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) is on Level 5 of the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre (ATC). Please inform reception of your arrival straight away. There are often other clinics in progress, so you may not be called in order of arrival. You may bring a relative or friend in with you during the test or request a chaperone if you would like one.

What is consent?

Consent is the process by which you give permission to healthcare professionals to provide your care and treatment. It may be implied (offering your arm for a blood pressure reading) or formal (signing a formal consent form for an operation). In either case your consent must be given voluntarily, and you must have all the information you need to make a decision. Before your test is performed, you must give your consent. If you feel you do not have enough information or do not understand the procedure, please ask.

How is an ABPI test performed?

There is no preparation needed and you may eat and drink as usual prior to the test.

A clinical vascular scientist (who might be male or female) will perform and interpret your ABPI test. You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks, roll up your sleeves and lie on the couch. A blood pressure cuff will be placed around your arms and ankles. A small amount of gel will be placed on your arm and your ankles, and a pen-like device called a handheld Doppler will be used to listen to the blood flow. The blood pressure cuffs will be pumped up to determine the blood pressure at your arms and ankles. This may feel tight but should not be painful.

The test takes about thirty minutes. During the test, you may hear some 'swooshing' noises from the handheld Doppler. These sounds are normal.

Diagrams of blood pressure cuffs on arm and ankle, using a pen-like ultrasound probe to locate the brachial artery.

What happens next?

The clinical vascular scientist can comment briefly on the findings and will write a report for the consultant who requested the test. You will be able to discuss the results of this investigation fully with the referring team at your next outpatient appointment. In rare cases, the clinical vascular scientist may need to discuss the result with a doctor before you leave.

Contacts / further information

If you require further information, please do not hesitate to call the Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) on 01223 348117.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151