A vascular scan assesses the arteries or veins in the body. It is also known as a duplex or Doppler scan as it assesses blood flow and looks for areas of narrowing of the arteries (stenosis) or for blood clots.

A vascular scan is commonly done on the neck arteries (carotid arteries), arms or legs. First, clear gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined to allow the ultrasound probe to move freely over the surface of the skin. It is common to hear whooshing noises from the machine, which is due to the normal signal from flowing blood converted into sound.

Types of vascular scans include:

  • Carotid
    This scan assesses the major blood vessels in the neck, the carotid arteries, on each side of the neck. Images will be taken measuring the blood flow to see if there are any areas of narrowing.
  • Leg Veins
    This scan assesses the vessels of the legs for blood clots or varicose veins. It involves checking for blood flow, and each section of the vein may be compressed by the sonographer. The leg or calf may be gently squeezed to ensure there is blood flow. One or both legs may be scanned.
  • Leg Arteries
    This scan assesses the blood flow in the major arteries of the leg to look for areas of narrowing. The aorta and pelvic arteries may also be assessed.
  • Abdominal aorta ultrasound (AAA)
    This scan assesses the aorta, the major artery in the abdomen from the heart to the legs. Measurements of the aorta will be taken to see if there is an aneurysm.

Before your Scan

With the exception of the abdominal aorta ultrasound, no preparation is required.

For the AAA procedure, you need to fast (not eat or drink anything) for six hours before your scan – see Abdominal Aorta / AAA ultrasound.


30 minutes.

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