Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive test healthcare providers use to evaluate blood flow in the arteries and veins of the arms, neck and legs. Providers use this test to diagnose blood clots and peripheral artery disease. You may also have this test to see if you’re a good candidate for angioplasty or to check blood vessel health after bypass.
Vascular ultrasound, also called a duplex study, is a noninvasive test. This test shows healthcare providers how blood flows in your arms, neck and legs. High-frequency sound waves create detailed images of soft tissue and blood vessels.
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Your healthcare provider may use vascular ultrasound to see how blood flows through your veins and arteries (blood vessels). You may have this test to help your provider diagnose:
You may need a vascular ultrasound if you have symptoms like:
Healthcare providers also use vascular ultrasound to check blood flow to organs. You may have this test if you’ve received an organ transplant.
Providers may also order a vascular ultrasound exam to see if you’re a good angioplasty candidate or check blood vessel health after venous disease bypass surgery.
An ultrasound technologist performs your vascular ultrasound exam. These technologists have special training in performing ultrasound tests.
Vascular ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images. These sound waves pass through your soft tissues and blood vessels. Sound waves create echoes as they pass through tissue and computers turn these echoes into images or videos.
There’s nothing special you need to do to prepare for a vascular ultrasound. Plan to arrive at the facility about 15 minutes before your vascular ultrasound appointment.
You should wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing and leave any jewelry or valuables at home. Healthcare providers may ask you to change into a hospital gown.
You lie on an examination table. The technologist applies a lubricating gel to your skin in the areas where they will examine your arteries and veins.
The technologist places a special probe called a transducer against your skin. You might feel a little pressure as they move the probe over the area. You may hear your blood flowing as it makes a pulsing or whooshing sound.
When the exam is over, the technologist wipes the lubricating gel away. You can return to work or other activities immediately after your exam.
Vascular ultrasound is safe. You won’t have any side effects from the exam.
Vascular ultrasound gives your healthcare provider information about how quickly (or slowly) blood flows through your body. This tells your provider if something is blocking a blood vessel (like a blood clot or plaque) or if blood vessels have become narrow.
A doctor who specializes in reading and interpreting radiographic images (radiologist) evaluates the images. When the radiologist has completed their review, they send the results to the doctor who ordered your vascular ultrasound.
You shouldn’t expect any side effects from a vascular ultrasound exam. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop any new or worsening symptoms such as pain or redness in the examined area.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive test healthcare providers use to determine how blood flows in arteries and veins in your arms, neck and legs. They use this test to diagnose blood clots, narrowed blood vessels, and other vascular health conditions.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/25/2022.
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