Pulse Volume Recording


  • Pulse volume recording (PVR) is part of a simple, painless, noninvasive test that measures blood flow within blood vessels (arteries) in the legs or arms.
  • The measurements obtained from PVRs are used in combination with other tests, such as segmental pressure measurements, Doppler waveform analysis, and duplex ultrasound, to help locate blockages in the arteries.
  • If PVRs suggest that a patient has a blockage in one or more arteries, a physician may order additional tests, such as an arteriogram, CT angiography, and magnetic resonance angiography to confirm a diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease and design a treatment plan.
  • Pulse volume recording, also known as plethysmography, is a noninvasive test that measures blood flow within the blood vessels, or arteries. Its purpose is to help locate blockages in the arteries. Physicians usually perform pulse volume recording on the legs to help diagnose leg artery disease. However, pulse volume recording may also be used in patients with suspected arm artery disease, thoracic outlet syndrome, or spasms of the finger arteries (Raynaud’s disease).


The patient should not smoke for at least 30 minutes before the test. Immediately before the test, the patient will be instructed remove clothing from the area to be tested and change into a hospital gown.


For this procedure, the patient will lie in a semi-recumbent (propped-up) position. A nurse or vascular technologist will place 3 or 4 blood pressure cuffs on the patient’s extremities; for example, on the thighs, calves, and ankles. The cuffs are connected to a machine known as a pulse volume recorder, and the pulses appear as waveforms (peaks and valleys) on a chart. The shape of these waveforms helps the physician diagnose possible blockages.

During the procedure, the technologist or nurse will also take readings known as segmental blood pressures or compare the blood pressure in the arms with the blood pressure in the ankles. Finally, the technologist may ask the patient to walk on a treadmill or rise up on his or her toes repetitively in an effort to duplicate the walking discomfort often experienced by patients with leg artery disease. This symptom is known as intermittent claudication.

The pulse volume recording procedure lasts about 30 minutes. Results of the test are usually available in a few hours and are interpreted by a physician.

[NOTE: This is an abbreviated version of the complete article. If you would like to read this article in its entirety, please call our office at (307) 778‐1849 and ask to meet with one of our specialists to receive a ‘Prescription Pad’ registration form. If you already have a ‘Prescription Pad’ form, please login and follow the instructions listed on the form. If you experience any issues during the registration process, please call member services at 1 (800) 603-1420 for assistance.]

Medical Review Date: November 24, 2009 / Copyright © 2012 NorthPoint Domain, Inc. All rights reserved. This material cannot be reproduced in digital or printed form without the express consent of NorthPoint Domain, Inc. Unauthorized copying or distribution of NorthPoint Domain’s Content is an infringement of the copyright holder’s rights.