Treadmill Exercise Test

A treadmill exercise test provides additional information to the doctor such as how severe your symptoms may be.  By walking on a treadmill for a few minutes, this test tries to imitate the experience you may have walking at home.

Why is this test used?

This test can be especially helpful for individuals in whom there may be more than one cause of leg symptoms with walking, such as from lumbar back or sciatic pain, nerve pain, or joint diseases. This test can also help you and your doctor distinguish the relative importance of PAD and other heart and lung symptoms to your difficulty with walking. Treadmill exercise tests are also useful for patients that will begin a formal exercise program to improve their claudication symptoms. By monitoring the heart during the treadmill exercise, your physician can reassure you that the heart is also receiving enough blood flow.  This can offer reassurance that an exercise program will be safe as you work to increase your walking capacity.

How is this test given?

The test usually follows these steps:

  • A baseline measurement of your arm and ankle blood pressures at rest is taken.
  • You will then be asked to walk slowly on a treadmill, typically for as long as you can comfortably walk until your symptoms become too uncomfortable to continue.
  • Lying down again, your arm and ankle blood pressure measurements will be immediately repeated.

What will the results mean?

In individuals without significant PAD, ankle pressures will remain the same or increase somewhat in comparison to your resting blood pressures. However, in individuals with PAD there is usually a drop in the ankle blood pressures and ABI values after exercise. When leg symptoms occur without a drop in ankle blood pressures, these symptoms are usually not caused by PAD.