How is a vascular study performed?

A vascular study -- a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) procedure used to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins -- may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.

Generally, a vascular study follows this process:
  • You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. You may wear your glasses, dentures, or hearing aid if you use any of these.
  • If you are asked to remove clothing, you will be given a gown to wear.
  • You will lie on an exam table or bed.
  • A clear gel will be placed on the skin at locations where the pulse is expected to be heard.
  • The Doppler transducer will be pressed against the skin and moved around over the area of the artery or vein being studied.
  • When blood flow is detected, you will hear a "whoosh, whoosh" sound. The probe will be moved around to compare blood flow in different areas of the artery or vein.
  • For arterial studies of the legs, blood pressure cuffs will be applied in three positions on the leg in order to compare the blood pressure between different areas of the leg. The cuff around the thigh will be inflated first, and the blood pressure will be determined with the Doppler transducer placed just below the cuff.
  • The cuff around the calf will be inflated, and the blood pressure will be determined as with the thigh cuff.
  • The cuff around the ankle will be inflated, and the blood pressure will be determined.
  • The blood pressure will be taken in the arm on the same side as the leg that was just studied and used to determine the degree of any occlusion of arterial flow in the legs.
  • Once the procedure has been completed, the gel will be removed from the skin.
The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort.