Collateral Circulation Testing of the Hand– Is it Relevant Now? A Narrative Review

Reshma Golamari, Ian C. Gilchrist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Testing for collateral circulation of the hand before any radial artery procedure has been a subject of many controversies. Neither the Allen's test (AT) nor the plethysmography based Barbeau test, adequately and reliably test for collateral circulation. With growing interest in radial approaches for vascular procedures, its common use for arterial monitoring and blood gas sampling, there has been a growing interest in the relevance of assessing collateral hand circulation. Multiple studies now refute the utility of collateral testing, yet it continues to be propagated as an essential triaging assessment tool by educators. Allen's, or modified Allen tests (MAT) are operator dependent and often subjected to observational bias. Barbeau test is more objective, however, it fails to show added benefit in assessing pre-procedural patency. Despite studies questioning the validity of collateral circulation assessment, these tests continue to preclude radial approach. There is no standardization for being considered an abnormal test across literature and the significance of an abnormal test translating into a clinical outcome has not been investigated in prior studies. This may be attributed to the robust vascular supply of the hand, connections at the digital circulation level and vessel recruitment in an event of occlusion. We reviewed this topic extensively and make an argument that non-invasive collateral testing should be abandoned as a triage tool for radial artery procedures such as arterial punctures, arterial monitoring, and transradial vascular procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-710
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of the Medical Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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