Limb Perfusion During Exercise Assessed by Contrast Ultrasound Varies According to Symptom Severity in Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease

Brian P. Davidson, James Hodovan, O'Neil R. Mason, Federico Moccetti, Avi Gupta, Matthew Muller, J. Todd Belcik, Brian H. Annex, Jonathan R. Lindner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: In patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), the severity of symptoms correlates poorly with ankle-brachial index (ABI). The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that limb perfusion assessed using contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEU) during contractile exercise varies according to functional class in patients with PAD, particularly those with ABIs in the 0.4 to 0.6 range whose symptoms vary widely. Methods: Bilateral quantitative CEU perfusion imaging of the calf was performed in normal control subjects (n = 10) and patients with PAD who had at least one limb with a moderately reduced ABI (0.4–0.6; n = 17). Imaging was performed at rest and immediately after 30 sec of modest periodic (0.3-Hz) plantar flexion (10 W). Results: In patients with PAD, Rutherford symptom classification for each limb varied widely, including in limbs with ABIs of 0.4 to 0.6 (n = 6 with mild or no symptoms, n = 14 with moderate to severe symptoms). CEU perfusion imaging parameters at rest were similar between control subjects and patients with PAD irrespective of ABI. In normal control subjects, limb flow increased on average by > 20-fold after only 30 sec of moderate exercise. In patients with PAD, muscle exercise perfusion for all limbs was reduced compared with control subjects and decreased according to the severity of ABI reduction, primarily from reduced microvascular flux rate. Even limbs with ABIs > 0.9 in patients with PAD had lower exercise perfusion than in control subjects (P = .03). In subjects with PAD, exercise perfusion was lower in those with moderate to severe versus mild symptoms when analyzed for all limbs (median, 30 IU/sec [interquartile range (IQR), 21–52 IU/sec] vs 84 IU/sec [IQR, 36–177 IU/sec]; P = .01) and limbs with ABIs of 0.4 to 0.6 (median, 26 IU/sec [IQR, 14–41 IU/sec] vs 54 IU/sec [IQR, 31–105 IU/sec]; P = .05). Conclusions: In patients with PAD, CEU exercise perfusion imaging detects differences in limb muscle perfusion that are likely to be responsible for differences in symptom severity and can detect the flow abnormalities from microvascular dysfunction even in limbs with normal ABIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1086-1094.e3
JournalJournal of the American Society of Echocardiography
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Contrast ultrasound
  • Microbubbles
  • Peripheral artery disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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