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Doppler ultrasound exam of an arm or leg

This test uses ultrasound to look at the blood flow in the large arteries and veins in the arms and legs.

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Doppler ultrasonography of an extremity

I Would Like to Learn About:

How the Test is Performed

The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department or in a peripheral vascular lab.

During the exam:

How to Prepare for the Test

You will need to remove clothes from the arm or leg being examined.

How the Test will Feel

Sometimes the person performing the test will need to press on the vein to make sure it does not have a clot. Some people may feel slight pain.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is done as the first step to look at arteries and veins. Sometimes arteriography and venography may be needed later. The test is done to help diagnose:

The test may also be used to:

Normal Results

A normal result means the blood vessels show no signs of narrowing, clots, or closure, and the arteries have normal blood flow.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to:

This test may also be done to help assess the following conditions:

Risks

There are no risks from this procedure.

Considerations

Cigarette smoking may alter the results of this test. Nicotine can cause the arteries in the extremities to constrict.

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of problems with the heart and circulatory system. Most smoking-related deaths are caused by cardiovascular problems, not lung cancer.

Related Information

Ultrasound
Blood clots
Venous insufficiency
Arterial embolism
Aortic dissection
Peripheral artery disease - legs
Coarctation of the aorta
Deep venous thrombosis
Superficial thrombophlebitis
SVC obstruction
Thromboangiitis obliterans

References

Cosgrove DO, Eckersley RJ, Harvey CJ, Lim A. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 3.

Fowler GC, Reddy B. Noninvasive Venous and Arterial Studies of the Lower Extremities. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 88.

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Review Date: 4/2/2015  

Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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