Overview of Peripheral Vascular Studies

Peripheral vascular studies use ultrasound to check for forms of vascular disease including carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and venous insufficiency.

Peripheral Vascular Studies are generally quick and painless. You don't need to prepare beforehand and they usually take less than an hour.

We've listed the different kinds of vascular studies below:


  • Venous studies: An ultrasound of the veins of the arm(s) and/or leg(s) is taken to rule out a blood clot or DVT. Patients typically present with pain and swelling.
  • Venous mapping: Ultrasounds are performed on the veins of the arm(s) and or leg(s) to measure the vein size prior to a bypass surgery
  • Venous competency exam ("comp check"): These studies are performed to evaluate the competency of vein valves in the lower extremities. Patients most typically have varicose veins or chronic swelling of the legs. These studies require an ultrasound as well as compression using blood pressure cuffs.


  • Duplex studies: These exams are used to visualize plaque in the common, internal, and external carotid arteries. These studies are typically performed on both sides of the neck. Indications for a carotid study are dizziness, syncope, weakness, TIA, and stoke.
  • Renal artery duplex: These studies are performed to rule out renal artery stenosis. The aorta, iliac, and mesenteric arteries as well as the kidneys are visualized. Patients typically present with hypertension.
  • Aorta/iliac duplex: These studies include measurements throughout the aorta to rule out an aortic aneurysm.
  • Pseudoaneurysm: These studies are performed following a catheterization. A pseudoaneurysm is a hole in the arterial wall that permits blood to escape under pressure, generating a false aneurysm.
  • Arterial duplex: These studies are of the arteries in the upper and/or lower extremities. Measurements and velocities are obtained to look for a blood clot, narrowing, or aneurysm. These exams also include bypass grafts. Patients usually present with numbness, coolness, and pain.
  • Transcranial Doppler: These exams are performed on the arteries inside the head. Saline may be used to detect a hole in the heart (PFO). These studies are performed above the ear, behind the neck, and over the eye. Limited exams may also be performed.

Ankle-brachial Index (ABI) Test

  • ABI test: This test compares the blood pressure in your ankle and in your arm to see if you have peripheral artery disease. A technician will place blood pressure cuffs on your arms and ankles and inflate the cuffs. As the cuffs deflate, a technician will hold an ultrasound transducer against each ankle and arm. The device uses high-frequency sound waves to measure the blood pressure in each area.
  • ABI test with stress (exercise): Depending on your situation, you might exercise on a treadmill. You will then have another ABI test.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.