Key Points about Peripheral Artery Ultrasounds

  • A peripheral artery ultrasound is an imaging test used to diagnose peripheral artery disease; the test may also be used to evaluate the arteries after bypass surgery or stent placement
  • The test can detect blockages in the arteries caused by blood clots or plaque
  • Before the test, take all medicals as prescribed, and avoid using powders, oils, or lotions on the skin
  • During the peripheral artery ultrasound, your technician will use a transducer to collect images of the blood vessels
  • A peripheral artery ultrasound takes 50 - 60 minutes to complete. You can return to your normal activity level after the test

Overview

A peripheral artery ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging procedure that produces images of the arteries in the legs and/or the arms. The test uses Doppler ultrasound, which can clearly show the anatomy and physiology of the vessels.

Your doctor may order a peripheral artery ultrasound to detect blockages caused by blood clots or plaque, aneurysms, or aortic dissection.A peripheral artery ultrasound may also be used to evaluate the arteries after a patient has an artery bypass surgery or stent placement.

Candidates for a peripheral artery ultrasound

Your doctor may order a peripheral artery ultrasound if he or she suspects you have peripheral artery disease or if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Cold feet or toes
  • Leg pain when walking, but relieved with rest
  • Intense leg pain at rest, especially when you are lying down
  • Weak or absent pulses

Preparing for a peripheral artery ultrasound

Your doctor may give you instructions to ensure your test goes smoothly in preparation for a peripheral artery ultrasound. Instructions may include:

  • Take your medications as prescribed on the day of the test
  • Avoid using any powders, oils, or lotions on your legs on the day of the test
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to the test

Expectations during a peripheral artery ultrasound

During a peripheral artery ultrasound, you will be instructed to lie on your back. Your technician will apply a warm gel to your legs or arms and use a piece of equipment called a transducer to obtain images of your blood vessels to look for any obstructions or occlusions. If any abnormalities are found, the length and severity of lesions can then be determined.

You should not feel any pain or discomfort during the peripheral artery ultrasound. 

Duration of a peripheral artery ultrasound

The test takes approximately 50 to 60 minutes to complete. You can return to your normal activities after a peripheral artery ultrasound. 

Your doctor will review your results and discuss any other tests or treatments needed in a follow-up visit.