Ankle Brachial Pressure Index (ABI)
What is an Ankle Brachial Pressure
Index (ABI) Test?
This is a test that uses sound waves
(Doppler) to measure the blood pressure in
your arms and ankles. The higher blood
pressure in your arm is compared to the
higher blood pressure in each of your ankles.
Let your sonographer know if you are
diabetic, have kidney failure, have any
reason why a blood pressure can not be
measured in your arm or
hyperparathyroidism as these conditions can
affect the results of the test.
How does it work?
Blood pressures are taken in each arm and
on each ankle using a blood pressure cuff
and a small, hand held device called a
Doppler. A Doppler lets your sonographer
hear the pulse in your arteries after the blood
pressure cuff is deflated. During the ABI
test, the Doppler will be pressed against the
pulses in your arms, tops of your feet, and
inside your ankles.
Why is an ABI done?
The ABI test is done to check for peripheral
arterial disease. This is a condition where
the arteries in your arms or legs are
narrowed. If you have peripheral arterial
disease, an ABI can be used to see if your
treatment is helping or if another approach
may be needed.
Before your ABI
You will be asked to remove your shoes,
socks, and clothes from your upper arms to
allow accurate blood pressure readings to be
taken. You will be asked to rest in bed for
about 10 minutes before the test to allow
your blood pressure to normalize (get back
to your normal after your previous activity).
What happens during the test?
During the test you will be asked to lie on
your back while your sonographer measures
the blood pressures in both your arms and
ankles using the Doppler. To help the
Doppler work, a gel is applied to the areas
where the Doppler will be placed. This may
feel cool and a bit moist. The gel will be
wiped off at the end of the test.
The sonographer will measure your blood
pressure on each of your arms. Then the
sonographer will measure your blood
pressure on each of your ankles from two
different arteries on top of your feet and the
inside of your ankles. A small sensor will
also be placed on one toe of each foot. The
test should take about 30 minutes to
What are the risks?
The ABI test is very safe. There are no
known risks from sound waves. The test is
painless, but you may feel pressure on your
arm or ankle while the blood pressure cuff is
inflated. This will not last long and should
stop when the air is released from the cuff.
If you have severe leg or arm pain, let your
sonographer know as your doctor may want
to order a different test.
The sonographer does not give test results.
Your doctor will talk to you about the results
of the ABI and how they affect your
treatment plan. This may be done while you
are in the hospital, or at future clinic visit.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©7/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7062.