Doppler ultrasound exam of an arm or leg

What is an Arm or Leg Doppler Ultrasound Exam?

An arm or leg Doppler ultrasound exam is a technique used to measure the flow of blood in the vessels of your arm or leg. It is an extension of regular ultrasound scanning. A specially designed transducer needs to be used that is fashioned to detect vibrations in the carotid artery and femoral artery. With the help of this device, your doctor can detect any blockages, malformations, or reduced blood flow in the veins and arteries of your arms and legs.

Preparation for a Doppler Ultrasound of an Arm or Leg

Before performing the Doppler ultrasound exam of your arm or leg, your doctor will ask some basic questions about your health and medical history. In addition, your doctor may ask you to take some specific tests to ensure accurate results. You should also inform your doctor if you are taking any blood thinning medications such as aspirin, as these can interfere with the accuracy of the exam. It is also important to wear loose clothing that exposes the arm or leg where the exam is to be performed.


During the procedure, the doctor or technician will clean and shave the area where the exam is to be performed. Then a water-soluble lubricant is applied to make sure the transducer glides seamlessly over the skin. After the lubricant is applied, the transducer is placed on the skin and the doctor will operate the device to capture the sound wave images of the surrounding vessels. The exam is usually completed within 10–15 minutes.


The two types of Doppler ultrasound exams of the arms or legs are:

  • Color Doppler Ultrasound: Provides information about the speed and direction of blood flow and helps to identify any blockages or malformations.
  • Power Doppler Ultrasound: Examines the deeper tissues and is used to provide more detailed information about the blood vessels.


Generally, Doppler ultrasound exams are considered to be safe procedures, as they use soundwave technology that is not harmful for the body. As with any other medical procedure, there is a slight risk of infection with a Doppler ultrasound, but the risk is minimal.

Why is an Arm or Leg Doppler Ultrasound Necessary?

An arm or leg Doppler ultrasound exam is necessary when the doctor needs to detect any obstruction or abnormal formation in the arteries or veins. It is recommended when the doctor suspects any blood flow problems in the limbs, such as deep vein thrombosis or blockages. The exam can also be used to measure how well certain treatments for arterial diseases are working.

When is an Arm or Leg Doppler Appointment Considered?

An arm or leg Doppler ultrasound exam appointment is recommended when the doctor suspects any issues with the circulation in the patient’s arms or legs. The exam is also recommended if the patient experiences leg swelling, pain, or any type of discoloration in the extremities.