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Peripheral Duplex Ultrasound 

Peripheral duplex ultrasound can help a physician diagnose peripheral artery disease and plan treatment. Peripheral duplex ultrasound is an imaging technique that utilizes sound waves to create detailed pictures, allowing a physician to visualize the flow of blood in the arteries in the legs. The test incorporates two different ultrasound technologies: traditional ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound. 

Conditions Diagnosed 

A physician may order a peripheral duplex ultrasound test for a patient who is experiencing symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that occurs when cholesterol plaque accumulates in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lower extremities. A buildup of plaque in the peripheral arteries can restrict or block blood flow to the legs. 

The symptoms of PAD include: 

  • Leg pain when walking 
  • Leg muscle cramping triggered by activity 
  • Leg numbness or muscle weakness 
  • A cold sensation in one leg or foot 
  • Sores on the legs, feet or toes that do not heal 
  • A change in the color of the skin on the legs 
  • Hair loss or slow hair growth on the legs and feet 
  • Slow toenail growth 
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in the legs or feet 

Procedure Details 

During a peripheral duplex ultrasound scan, the patient lies face-up on an examination table. After applying a special gel to the patient’s legs, a technician will glide a handheld transducer back and forth over the gel. The transducer will generate sound waves that will bounce off the blood moving through the arteries in the patient’s legs, creating echoes that reflect back to the transducer. The transducer will then convert the echoed sound waves to electronic signals, which will be displayed as high-definition images on a nearby monitor. The images can be viewed immediately and stored for further evaluation. During the test, the patient’s ankle-brachial index (ABI) may also be calculated using blood pressure measurements taken from his or her arms and ankles. The entire process takes approximately 60 minutes. 

What to Expect 

There are no known risks associated with peripheral duplex ultrasound, and most patients resume their daily activities immediately afterward. 

Effectiveness 

Although peripheral duplex ultrasound generally takes more time to complete than other arterial studies of the lower extremities, it allows a technician to map peripheral artery disease with a high level of precision.  

In Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute, our patients can benefit from a full spectrum of innovative diagnostic techniques, including peripheral duplex ultrasound.