What is a vascular study?

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Syed M. Peeran, MD
Vascular Surgery
A vascular study is a physiological study that examines blood flow to the feet or arms. Learn when and why vascular studies are used in this video with vascular surgeon Syed Peeran, MD from Portsmouth Regional Hospital.
A vascular study is used to determine whether or not a vascular disease needs to be treated. In this video, Thomas Beadle, MD from Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital, explains the different tests that are performed during a vascular study.
Vascular studies are noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) procedures used to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins.

Vascular studies can utilize one of these special types of ultrasound technologies, as listed below:
  • The Doppler technique is used to measure and assess the flow of blood through the blood vessels. The amount of blood pumped with each beat is an indication of the size of a vessel's opening. Also, Doppler can detect abnormal blood flow within a vessel, which can indicate a blockage caused by a blood clot, a plaque, or inflammation.
  • Color Doppler is an enhanced form of Doppler ultrasound technology. With color Doppler, different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow. This simplifies the interpretation of the Doppler technique.
  • To assess blood flow in the limbs, pulse volume recordings (PVRs) may be performed. Blood pressure cuffs are inflated on the limb and blood pressure in the limb is measured using the Doppler transducer.
  • To assess the carotid arteries in the neck, a carotid duplex scan may be performed. This type of Doppler examination provides a 2-dimensional (2D) image of the arteries so that the structure of the arteries and location of an occlusion can be determined, as well as the degree of blood flow.
  • A carotid artery duplex scan is a type of vascular ultrasound study done to assess occlusion (blockage) or stenosis (narrowing) of the carotid arteries of the neck and/or the branches of the carotid artery. Plaque (a buildup of fatty materials), a thrombus (blood clot), and other substances in the bloodstream may cause a disturbance in the blood flow through the carotid arteries.