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Venous Duplex Ultrasound

(Venous Duplex Study; B-mode Imaging)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Test | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. A venous duplex ultrasound is an ultrasound that looks at the flow of blood through the veins in the arms or legs.

Reasons for Test

The test may be used for the following reasons:

  • To investigate the cause of the following symptoms in an arm or leg:
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Increased warmth
    • Bulging veins
  • To diagnose the following:

Deep Vein Thrombosis

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Possible Complications

There are no major complications associated with this procedure.

What to Expect

No special preparation is needed for this test.

You will be asked to lie on a table. Gel will be placed on the skin of your arm or leg, over the veins being tested.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off structures in the body and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted to images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. He may make a photograph of them as well.

The technologist may push the probe firmly or softly against your skin in order to better see the vein and to see if it collapses under pressure.

You can get dressed and go home. Follow your doctor’s recommendations.

The length of the test varies, depending on your situation. In most cases, it will take between 15-45 minutes.

In general, this test is not painful. You may feel some mild discomfort as pressure is applied to your arm or leg.

A radiologist, cardiologist, or vascular surgeon will read the images. The test results will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will notify you of the results and provide you with recommendations.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Your symptoms continue or worsen
  • You develop any new symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Family Doctor.org



Canadian Family Physicians



American College of Phlebology website. Available at: http://www.phlebology.org. Accessed April 25, 2003.

American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed on April 25, 2003.

Duplex ultrasound. Microsuregon.org website. Available at http://www.microsurgeon.org/monitoring. Accessed April 25, 2003.

Vascular Technology Professional Performance Guidelines: Lower Extremity Venous Duplex Evaluation. Society for Vascular Ultrasound website. Available at: http://www.svunet.org/files/positions/0608Lower_Extremity_Venou.pdf. Updated 2008. Accessed November 12, 2010.

Venous ultrasound. Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=venousus. Updated October 2008. Accessed July 21, 2009.

Last reviewed December 2012 by David N. Smith, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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