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. It is similar to the use of sonar in submarines.

Reasons for Test

The test may be used for the following reasons:

  • To investigate the cause of the following symptoms in an arm or leg:
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Increased warmth or coolness of the extremity
    • Difficulty finding pulses
    • Bulging veins
  • To diagnose the following:
    • Poor circulation due to blocked or narrowed blood vessels
    • Blood clots
    • Poor blood vessel function

Leg Veins

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The procedure is also used to evaluate the results of vascular surgery.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

No special preparation is needed for this test. If you smoke, you may be asked to stop smoking leading up to the test.

Description of Test

Gel will be placed on the skin of your arm or leg over the area being tested.

There are two types of ultrasound:

One is a simple one-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 two-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. He may make a photograph of them as well.

After the Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

30-60 minutes

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.

In case of emergency, CALL 911.