Book Creator

Physical Exam of Legs and the Peripheral Vascular System

by Hannah Cooper


Physical Exam of Legs and the Peripheral Vascular System
Hannah Cooper RN, BSN
What is the peripheral vascular system ....
The peripheral vascular system is a crucial function of the body and it is defined as a system that brings oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body and its extremities and in return, brings deoxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs to become reoxygenated and to continue the cycle. (Introduction to the Peripheral Vascular System, 2023) Without this process, the body would not be able to function. It is important to assess this system in patients because dysfunctions within the peripheral vascular system can lead to poor wound healing, difficulty walking, clots, and even strokes! (Peripheral Vascular Disease, 2021) Additionally, assessing the legs can help identify other areas in need of attention, like the heart, liver, or kidneys. Bilateral edema in the lower extremities can be telling of heart failure or other conditions. (Bickley et. al., 2021) Assessing this system can provide early detection and interventions for these conditions, leading towards a healthier and more functional life. By assessing the legs, we can observe the functionality of the peripheral vascular system in the lower extremities. Palpating pulses, inspecting symmetry, color, and temperature all contribute to the peripheral vascular assessment of the legs. (Bickley et. al., 2021)
Assessments and Findings in the Peripheral Vascular System of Legs...
Conditions of the Peripheral Vascular System...
DVT also known as deep vein thrombosis is a condition where a clot forms commonly in the lower extremity. If this clot breaks away and travels it can become a dangerous embolism. Signs and symptoms to look for are pain, swelling, and/or redness in the extremity that has the DVT. (CDC, 2020)

PAD also known as peripheral arterial disease is a condition where the arterial walls have a build up of fat in the lower extremities. This condition can present itself with ulcers that do not heal, coolness, and/or discoloration of the lower extremities. (PAD vs PVD: What Are the Differences? | USA Vascular Centers, 2021)
(NHS Choices, 2023)
(PAD vs PVD: What Are the Differences? | USA Vascular Centers, 2021)
Bickley, L. S., Szilagyi, P. G., Hoffman, R. M., & Soriano, R. P. (2024). Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and history taking. Wolters Kluwer.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 9). What is venous thromboembolism? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Introduction to the Peripheral Vascular System. (2023).; Pressbooks.

ā€ŒPAD vs PVD: What are the Differences? USA Vascular Centers. (2021, July 7).

NHS Choices. (2023). DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

NHS Choices. (2023). Overview - Peripheral arterial disease (PAD).