Vascular Ultrasound of the Arm or Leg

Vascular ultrasounds are exams that check the blood flow in your arteries and veins. These tests are noninvasive.

Common vascular exams that your physician may order include: Arm and Leg Arterial and Venous Studies, Venous Doppler Studies, Arterial Doppler Studies, and Pulse Volume Recordings.


Vascular studies use high-frequency sound waves to measure the amount of blood flow in your vessels. A small handheld transducer is pressed against your skin. The sound waves move through your skin to the blood vessels. These sound waves are reflected back to the transducer and are converted into images on the ultrasound machine.


  • Generally, you don’t need to prepare for a vascular study.
  • Your doctor may give you specific instructions about smoking and caffeine.

Conditions treated:

Your physician may order a vascular ultrasound for these indications:

  • A slow clogging of the arteries.
  • An enlargement of part of the heart muscle, or of the body’s main artery.
  • Thrombus or embolus. A blood clot that forms in a blood vessel is a thrombus. An embolus is a small mass that moves through blood vessels to another part of the body, but gets stuck in a vessel.
  • Inflammatory conditions.  Swelling in a blood vessel may occur because of an injury or an irritating medicine that gets into the vessel. It can also be caused by infection or an autoimmune disorder.
  • Varicose veins. Large, bulging veins in the leg.

Symptoms that may occur when blood flow is decreased to your legs:

  • Leg pain, swelling, or weakness
  • Soreness, tenderness, redness, or warmth on the leg
  • Pale and cool skin, may even be a grayish or blue color
  • Numbness or tingling