Vascular Associates of Northern Virginia

Timely and considerate care of the arterial and venous systems.

What is an Arterial Duplex?

An arterial duplex, an arterial doppler, or an arterial ultrasound typically refer to the same thing.  It is a non-invasive diagnostic medical imaging study.  An ultrasound machine is used to perform the study, similar to the machine used to check on babies in pregnancy.

How It Is Done

Similar to a venous duplex, a water based gel is applied to the area of interest.  Therefore, the skin of the area needs to be exposed and any clothing should be removed.  Once the gel is applied, the technologist would then use a probe or transducer that is hooked to the machine and run it over the skin to see the arteries.  This transducer acts like the lens on a camera.  There are different types of transducers similar to the different types of lenses a camera would have.  Each transducer has different frequencies for different types of scans.


Your physician would order an arterial duplex when he/she suspects problems with your blood flow in your arteries or with the arteries themselves.  Some of the common reasons for ordering an arterial duplex are:

  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): You can read more about them in our two previous posts, Peripheral Arterial (or Vascular) Disease (PAD or PVD)-Part 1 and Peripheral Arterial (or Vascular) Disease (PAD or PVD)-Part 2
  • An aneurysm: An aneurysm in basic terms is a bulge in an artery.  It could be dangerous if left unchecked.  Most commonly, an ultrasound is used to check for aneurysms in the abdominal aorta, the iliac arteries, or the popliteal artery.
  • Abdominal pain after eating.  Your doctor might order an arterial duplex of certain blood vessels in your abdomen to check for narrowing or blockages which might be causing the pain.
  • High blood pressure.  For certain people with high blood pressure, the doctor might order an arterial duplex of the renal arteries (the arteries supplying the kidneys).

These are just some of the examples where an arterial duplex can be used to help with the diagnosis of a condition.  There are other reasons for ordering the study as well.


If you are having the study done on your legs or arms, then there is no specific preparation other than having the skin of the areas of interest exposed.  So you would typically be asked to remove your clothings over that area.

If you are having the study done on your belly area, such as to look at your aorta or your renal arteries, then you should be fasting for at least 8 hours before the test.  The reason for such practice is to minimize the amount of gas in your bowels.  As we breath and talk, we start developing gas in our bowels and eating increases the build up of gas in the belly area.  Ultrasound machines cannot see through gas and therefore patients are asked to fast.  However, medications with a sip of water are usually fine to have before the test.


The duration of the test depends on the type of study.  In general, it could last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and may be longer.


If you have additional questions about your test, you can always ask the ordering physician or the technologist at the vascular lab where you are having your test done.


Vascular Associates of Northern Virginia, P.C.
Vascular Laboratory

Our Physicians:
Robert S. Podolsky, M.D.
Avisesh Sahgal, M.D.

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