Vascular ultrasound is the most frequently used non-invasive technique for diagnosing vascular disease. The benefits to the patient far outweigh other methods, because ultrasound is extremely reliable, painless and quick, presents no risk of radiation and is cost effective. Harrison’s doctors use it daily to detect vascular disease and abnormalities.
Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use X-rays.
Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.
A vascular ultrasound examination includes a Doppler study—a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood flow through major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs, and neck.
Vascular ultrasound often is used for diagnosing narrowing of the arteries in the neck, arms, heart, abdomen, and lower extremities. It also is the most frequently used technique for diagnosing problems with the venous system, such as blood clots and varicose veins.
What to expect
Ultrasound examinations are painless, fast, and easy. After you are positioned on the examination table, the technologist will apply some warm, water-based gel on your skin and then place the sensor firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. Patients typically report no discomfort from pressure unless scanning is performed over an area of tenderness.
When a Doppler ultrasound study is performed, you actually may hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is monitored and measured.
After the procedureOnce the imaging is complete, you can go back to normal activities right away. A vascular specialist (vascular surgeon, radiologist or cardiologist)—a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret vascular ultrasounds—will analyze the images and report to the referring physician, who will share the results with you to discuss next steps.