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One of the many things we take for granted is blood flow. It’s not really a concern until things go bad.
As arteries travel away from the heart they branch into smaller and smaller vessels. If an artery narrows too much it can be like crimping a water hose. Blood flow will change from a strong stream to a trickle. Since arterial blood flow brings oxygen, a decrease in flow can have dramatic changes. This is especially true with your feet.
The Importance of Oxygen & Smart ABI Testing
We take in Oxygen when we breathe. The tough part is getting that oxygen to every part of the body. Muscles cramp, ulcers do not heal, and tissue dies when they are deprived of oxygen.
Have you ever put a rubber band around your finger? Within 10 seconds, you’ll see a color change. After 1-2 minutes, a deep and overwhelming pain starts to set in – that’s ischemic pain. This is due to a lack of oxygen, which also results in cells starting to die. With this simple example, you can see why it is incredibly important to have appropriate blood flow to all parts of your body.
This is where Smart ABI comes in. This is a non-invasive tool that utilizes inflatable arm and leg cuffs to test your blood flow. You’ll be in a reclined position, with no wires or tubes connected. No need for drawing blood, fasting, or other studies. The Smart ABI system will collect information via Bluetooth while the cuffs deflate. Your results and waveforms are available within minutes after that!
Do I Need Smart ABI Testing?
To start, we have three easy warning signs that you should come in.
Skin & Hair Concerns
Loss of hair growth is a good indicator of diminished vascular supply. Additionally, the skin will get thin and shiny.
Capillary Fill Time
When you pinch the end of the toe, the color should normally take under 3 seconds to return to normal. If you’re still counting up to 5…6…7…8…9…10, you’re vascular flow is decreased. This is called capillary fill time and reflects the small vessel supply.
Muscle Cramping from Normal Activity or Light Exercise
Muscle cramping with activity is called claudication. Claudication is a red flag – like left arm pain before a heart attack. Look for foot, calf, or thigh pain with light to moderate activity. Walking for 10-30 minutes, 20-30 minutes of tennis activity, or shopping for 20-30 minutes can be the catalyst. Symptoms will get better with rest but return when the same amount of activity is repeated. This is not like the muscle cramping you get after long or intense exercise.
In this scenario, it is time to add an Endovascular specialist to the medical team. This type of doctor can open up vessels and restore flow from the groin to the top of the foot. They will try to avoid stents and vessel replacement.
Big Concerns That Need Immediate Attention
Resting leg pain – this is not normal and a real reason for concern. The level of oxygen is below the threshold for tissue survival. A skin ulcer or other foot concerns may not have the resources to heal. Dark or cyanotic tissue could be a sign of gangrene. It is essential you come in to see us right away.
This is the eleventh hour for limb salvage. If a significant amount of tissue dies, we are going to lose parts. The pain from an ischemic limb is off the charts. The risk of sepsis dramatically increases.