What Are Vascular Studies?

Vascular studies are a non-invasive (the skin is not pierced) procedure used to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins. A transducer (like a microphone) sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed on the skin at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the blood vessels, where the waves echo off of the blood cells.

The transducer picks up the reflected waves and sends them to an amplifier, which makes the ultrasonic sound waves audible.

Reasons for vascular studies

If the physician suspects that a person may have decreased blood flow somewhere in the peripheral (arms, legs, and/or neck) circulation, vascular studies may be performed.

Some symptoms that may occur when blood flow decreases to the legs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Leg pain and/or weakness during exertion (known as claudication)
  • Swelling
  • Soreness, tenderness, redness, and/or warmth in the leg(s)
  • Pale and cool skin; may even be grayish or blue
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Rest pain (pain in the foot that occurs when sitting or lying down and is relieved by standing)