Peripheral vascular ultrasound is a test used to evaluate the health of blood vessels. Ultrasound uses sound waves to capture images of structures inside the body.
Reasons for Test
The test may be used to investigate the cause of:
- Increased warmth or coolness in the extremity
- Difficulty finding pulses
- Bulging veins
It may also be used to diagnose the cause or severity of:
- Poor circulation due to blocked or narrowed blood vessels
- Blood clots
- Poor blood vessel function
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The procedure is also used to evaluate the results of vascular surgery.
There are no major complications associated with this test.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
No special preparation is needed for this test.
Description of Test
Gel will be placed on the skin of your arm or leg over the area being tested.
There are 2 types of ultrasound:
One is a simple 1-dimensional beam that detects movement by making a swishing sound. A hand-held device is pushed against your skin in the area being tested. Sound waves are sent into the body and bounce back to the machine. This is used to detect blood flow in arteries that may be narrowed. It may also be used to check for blood flow in veins that the doctor is concerned about.
The other technique makes a 2-dimensional image. The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off structures in the body and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted to images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. Photograph of them mat be taken as well.
After the Test
You will be able to leave after the test is done.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
The results will let your doctor know if you need further testing or treatment.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have any questions about the test, your condition, or your test results.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
Radiology Info—Radiologic Society of North America
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Mount Sinai Hospital
Duplex ultrasound. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-tests/duplex-ultrasound. Accessed March 2, 2018.
Vascular ultrasound. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/conditions_treatments/treatments/vascular_ultrasound.html. Accessed March 2, 2018.
Vascular ultrasound. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=vascularus. Updated April 1, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 5/2/2014