Venous Duplex Scan

What is Venous Duplex Scan?

A Venous Duplex Scan is a type of dedicated ultrasound to look at the venous system.  The ultrasound uses sound waves to see the veins and evaluate blood flow within them.  This exam is commonly used for veins in the legs and abdomen, but it can be applied to any other veins such as the neck or arms.  One benefit of this exam is that it helps detect blood clots in the veins of the legs before they become dislodged and potentially pass to the lungs. Using a specialized Doppler technique, movement of blood within the vessels can be measured—this helps you see where the vein is open and where it may be blocked potentially by a blood clot. A Venous Duplex Scan provides detailed pictures of these blood vessels to help physicians determine the extent and cause of limited blood flow and to identify venous disease.

This procedure is performed to evaluate symptoms including leg pain or swelling, leg heaviness, excessive varicose veins, leg discoloration, shortness of breath, or suspected blood clots in your legs and/or lungs. A pulmonary embolism is the sudden blockage usually by a blood clot which may have traveled from the legs to form a blood clot in the lungs. By far the most common use of a venous duplex or venous ultrasound is to evaluate the patient for a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside your body. Often DVT affects veins in the legs. Risk factors include:

  • Age. Being older than 60 increases your risk of DVT
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone replacement therapy
  • Cancer 
  • Family or personal history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • Heart failure
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Inheriting a blood-clotting disorder
  • Injury or surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Sitting in the same position for long periods of time (long plane or car rides)
  • Smoking 

A vein condition is May-Thurner Syndrome, an uncommon vascular condition that affects a vein in your pelvis. It occurs when a nearby artery compresses the left iliac vein—typically congenital. The compression prevents blood from flowing properly, leading to narrowing and scarring.  This can also predispose you to leg swelling or formation of repeated new clots typically only in one leg. A venous duplex can be utilized to evaluate for such abnormalities within the vein. 

Other circumstances, such as compression from an adjacent tumor, or evaluation of your veins after placement of an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) are all additional circumstances this exam may be utilized.  The exam can also be used to monitor your veins in a scheduled fashion after having a procedure where reconstruction of the veins (vein recanalization) was required or where clot from the veins had to be removed (venous thrombectomy).

For this procedure, you will lay face-up on a moveable exam table and you may be turned to either side. Warm gel is placed over the area to be tested (typically from the groin/upper thigh to the lower calf) and an ultrasound probe is gently passed back and forth over the skin.  The sound waves emitted from the ultrasound are used to construct a picture of the vein, and additional techniques are used to see how blood is flowing through the vein itself.  During ultrasounds, specifically for evaluation for DVT, the technologist will apply firm compression to each portion of the vein, starting at the hip, and in certain portions mild pressure may be applied to your calf to see how blood flows through the vein. 


Why choose Fairfax Vascular Center?

While an ultrasound is a simple exam, there are many factors that go into successful imaging and interpretation.  These range from high-quality, updated ultrasound machines, experienced ultrasound technologists and experienced vascular and interventional radiologists.  These factors are particularly important when performing venous duplexes to make sure an abnormal vein or clot within the vein is not missed.

The specialists at Fairfax Vascular Center have the largest combined clinical and imaging experience in management and treatment of venous disease in the region.  This includes complicated deep vein thrombosis (involving both legs or even your abdomen), reconstruction of veins in the setting of long-term blockages, as well as removal of complex IVC filters.  Our interventional radiologists are vein specialists that follow and manage their patients in clinical visits, as well as help design imaging protocols and interpret venous studies of varying complexity, and furthermore perform both simple and complex venous procedures.
Geographically, we are among the most experienced dedicated vascular specialists for diagnostic imaging related to the vascular system and vascular disease.  Thanks to our rigorous emphasis on quality of imaging and interpretation, we are able to provide our patients with the utmost in experience and care.

Have a discussion with your physician to determine if a venous duplex or venous ultrasound is an appropriate part of your work up.

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Why would my physician recommend Venous Duplex Scan?

Your physician may recommend a venous duplex scan to search for blood clots, especially in the veins of the leg. It may also be performed to determine the cause of leg swelling, for pre-surgical vein mapping, or to examine a blood vessel graft used for dialysis.

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What do I need to do before my procedure?

You will be given detailed instructions by our staff before your procedure. Be sure to bring your insurance card, photo ID, list of current medications (dose and frequency) and any diagnostic testing results.

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What should I expect during a Venous Duplex Scan?

You will lay face-up on a moveable exam table and you may be turned to either side. Warm gel is placed over the area to be tested (typically from the groin / upper thigh to the lower calf) and a probe is gently passed back and forth on your skin over the area to create and pick up sound waves, which are converted into an image on a screen. During the exam, you will hear the ultrasound machine reproduce your pulse as detected through the Doppler component of the exam.

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What should I expect after a Venous Duplex Scan?

When the imaging is complete, the clear gel will be wiped off your skin. After the procedure, you may resume your normal activities immediately.

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How do I schedule a Venous Duplex Scan with Fairfax Vascular Center?

Before scheduling an appointment, you will need to get a referral from your physician. Once you have a referral, you can schedule an appointment by calling 703.698.4475 Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm.

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When are appointments offered for a Venous Duplex Scan?

Appointments are available at Fairfax Vascular Center Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm. Learn more about this location.

Because of a chronic problem I had with edema in my legs over the years, this was my fourth Doppler. I would like to especially highlight what a positive experience this particular time was. My technician was exceptional. From the moment I met her, she made it clear that my comfort and my safety were the foremost concern in the process. She was able to eliminate most of the concerns created by my former experiences. From the front desk to the final procedure I was impressed and felt good about it. My kudos to you and your leadership as well.  

Nancy O , Happy Patient

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