Poor Leg Circulation: How a Duplex Ultrasound Can Help with Your Diagnosis

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

Poor leg circulation is a dangerous situation that many people will experience in their life. Fortunately, there is a piece of equipment that assists in detecting issues like deep vein thrombosis: the duplex ultrasound! Read below to learn more about what a duplex ultrasound is and how it helps with the diagnosis of poor leg circulation.

What Is a Duplex Ultrasound?

Duplex ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to look at the speed of blood flow and structure of the leg veins. The term "duplex" refers to the fact that two modes of ultrasound are used, Doppler and B-mode.

How the Test Is Performed

A duplex ultrasound combines two types of ultrasound:

Traditional ultrasound: uses sound waves that bounce off blood vessels to create pictures.

Doppler ultrasound: records sound waves reflecting off moving objects, such as blood, to measure their speed and other aspects of how they flow.

There are different types of duplex ultrasound exams. Some include:

• Arterial and venous duplex ultrasound of the abdomen, which examines blood vessels and blood flow in the abdominal area.

• Carotid duplex ultrasound looks at the carotid artery in the neck.

• Duplex ultrasound of the extremities looks at arms or legs.

• Renal duplex ultrasound examines kidneys and their blood vessels.

A wand, called a transducer, is moved over the area being tested, sending out sound waves. A computer measures the reflection and changes in the sound waves, then uses that information to create pictures. The Doppler creates a "swishing" sound, which is the sound of your blood moving through the arteries and veins.

Sometimes during a duplex ultrasound of the legs, the health care provider may calculate an ankle-brachial index (ABI). You will need to wear blood pressure cuffs on your arms and legs for this test. For most ultrasound exams, you will be asked to lay on the exam table. A pair of shorts may be provided as the ultrasound gel may get on your clothing.

Diagnosing Poor Leg Circulation

If your doctor thinks you have poor leg circulation, they may recommend an ultrasound test to measure the blood flow through your veins. It will also help find any clots that might be blocking the flow. You might have two or three more ultrasounds over two weeks.

To see if you need an ultrasound, the doctor will perform a physical exam. They will check your heart and lungs, then examine your legs for warmth, swelling, bulging veins, or changes in skin color. Your doctor will also ask questions about your past and current health. These questions may include:

• Do you have any swelling or pain in your legs?

• Have you had a blood clot before?

• What medicines do you take?

• Have you had surgery recently, or have you been on any long trips lately?

Learn More About Poor Leg Circulation and Ultrasounds

At South Valley Vascular, our doctors and providers examine the arteries and veins in the legs every day! Give us a call today to schedule an appointment at one of our five locations or to talk with a medical professional.