What Is a Test for Blood Circulation?

Updated July 19, 2017

People with poor blood circulation may develop peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. PAD reduces circulation in the blood vessels that supply blood to the legs and arms. This condition may cause severe medical complications if it is not treated. Doctors may use several tests to evaluate a patient's blood circulation including an ankle brachial index, pulse volume recording and vascular ultrasound.

Ankle Brachial Index

A physician uses an ankle brachial index test to compare blood circulation in one of a patient's arms to blood circulation in an ankle. A health care professional uses a standard blood pressure testing cuff on the arm and on the ankle. The test provider uses a stethoscope or ultrasound device with the cuff to get accurate blood pressure readings. Abnormally low ankle readings relative to arm readings may be a sign of peripheral arterial disease.

Pulse Volume Recording

A doctor may use a pulse volume recording test to evaluate blood circulation and identify potential artery blockages or narrowed areas of blood vessels. Patients may walk on a treadmill with a blood pressure cuff attached around an area of one of the extremities. A health care professional measures blood pressure in a given area or the arm or leg, moves the blood pressure cuff to another arm or leg area and takes another reading.

Vascular Ultrasound

People with possible blood circulation problems may undergo a vascular ultrasound test. A medical professional applies a special gel to the skin near the blood vessels that a doctor wants to test. A transducer device records blood circulation in a nearby blood vessel and passes images to an attached monitor. This test may identify problems with blood circulation in the neck, near specific organs and in areas where blood vessel narrowing is suspected.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Individuals with peripheral arterial disease have reduced blood flow in their legs or arms due to narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel. Part of diagnosing this disease, in addition to testing, is taking a medical history. A common sign of this disease is pain, cramping or discomfort in the leg, thigh or buttocks that occurs with activity and may clear up during rest. Diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking can increase a person's risk of getting this disease. People with this condition may develop a stroke, heart attack or kidney disorder if they do not receive treatment. A doctor may perform a surgical procedure to improve blood flow or reroute blood in patients with PAD.

Other PAD Tests

Physicians may use other tests to diagnose and monitor PAD. A patient may receive an angiography where a contrasting solution is inserted into a blood vessel to increase clarity of an X-ray image of the blood vessel. A doctor may use a computerised tomography scan to provide detailed cross-sectional images of an area around a blocked blood vessel. A magnetic resonance imaging test also provides detailed images of inner organs and blood vessels.

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About the Author

Eric Smith has been a freelance writer since 2007 and has published articles on various websites. Smith specializes in a wide variety of topics, particularly health, travel and business. He has a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Oakland University.