Arterial Doppler Exam of the Lower Extremities

arterial_dopplerIf your doctor has ordered an arterial Doppler study, we would like for you to understand what this test is all about. An arterial Doppler study is used to evaluate the arteries in your legs for plaque build up or narrowing also known as peripheral vascular disease.

This study is made up of two parts. The first part evaluates the blood pressures in your arms and legs. The sonographer will take your blood pressure in both arms. You will then have blood pressure cuffs wrapped around four different segments of your legs. He or she will evaluate your blood pressure in each of those four segments. The sonographer looks for any significant differences in blood pressure between segments. These readings can show specific areas of interest where disease may be located.

The second part, called an arterial duplex scan, uses an ultrasound machine to take sound wave pictures of the arteries in your legs. For this part as well as the first, you will be asked to lie down on your back. The sonographer will apply a special gel to the ultrasound probe and move it around on your legs. He or she will start very high on your leg, looking at and listening to the blood flow all the way down your leg to the ankle. This part will show specifically if plaque or blockages are present, where they are located and how significant they are.

You may need this test if:

  • You experience pain in your legs when walking, even short distances.
  • You have skin discoloration in your legs.
  • You have wounds that won’t heal properly.
  • You have had prior vascular disease, vascular surgery, coronary artery disease or carotid artery disease, or there is an absence of pulses in your legs.

The full exam takes approximately two hours to complete. The ultrasound images are recorded onto a videotape and the doctor will usually discuss the results with you before you leave the office.