Lower Limb (Leg) Arteries

Why am I having this ultrasound examination?

The lower limb arterial scan is a non-invasive method of checking the blood flow in the arteries in your abdomen and both legs.

  • weak or absent pulses
  • cramping, tightness or pain in the calf or buttock associated with activity (intermittent claudication)
  • previous treatment (an angioplasty, stent or by-pass) for a ‘blockage’ in one or more of your lower limb arteries

What veins will be checked in this examination?

  • Renal Artery
  • Aorta
  • Common Iliac Artery
  • External Iliac Artery
  • Common Femoral Artery
  • Femoral Artery
  • Popliteal Artery
  • Tibio-Peroneal Trunk
  • Anterior Tibial Artery
  • Peroneal Artery
  • Posterior Artery
  • Dorsalis Pedis Artery

What happens during the examination?

Because the arteries in your abdomen lie underneath the large intestine (bowel), dietary preparation is required for this examination. This is to reduce gas in the bowel which can interfere with adequate ultrasound penetration. The preparation will be explained to you in more detail when you are making your appointment and will vary depending on whether or not you have diabetes.

Often your doctor may also request that we perform a short exercise test before your ultrasound scan. This is not the same as a ‘stress test’ for your heart, but does require that you walk on a treadmill for about 5 minutes, if you are able, to illustrate the symptoms that you may have been experiencing. The sonographer will also take some Doppler tracings from arteries at your ankles, as well as blood pressures at your ankles and in your arms, both before and after your exercise. Please do not be anxious about this part of the examination; it does not usually take longer than 15 minutes and the sonographer will not force you to walk faster or for longer than you can manage.

The lower limb arterial ultrasound is performed with you lying on an examination couch so you should be quite comfortable. In order for the sonographer to easily access the lower limb arteries, you will be asked to remove your footwear, and the outer clothing from your waist down. It is helpful if you do not wear tight underclothing, such as ‘step-ins’, or long legged underpants, like boxer shorts. The sonographer will place some gel on your skin, and you will feel a firm pressure from the transducer as it runs along the course of the blood vessels. You will hear the sound of the Doppler from time to time, but there should be no major discomfort. You may be required to roll a little from side to side, so better views of the arteries can be obtained

How long does the examination take?

Scanning of the abdominal arteries may take up to 20 minutes, and each leg will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. If you do have any questions or concerns, please ask at any time throughout the test.

When will I get my results?

The sonographer does not usually give you your results at the time of your examination, however your doctor will receive your scan results within a week. If you have an appointment already booked with your referring doctor, please advise the sonographer at the time of your scan. Urgent results are always sent back to your doctor within 24 hours.

Download the Patient Information Brochure