What is Vascular Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a medical imaging method that uses sound waves to produce images of what’s happening inside the body. Ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive way to diagnose various conditions and diseases, including gallbladder disease, deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, thyroid disease, cysts, and more.
Vascular Ultrasound focuses on the vascular, or circulatory system, to produce images of veins and arteries. Doppler ultrasound monitors blood flow, often part of a vascular ultrasound exam. Doppler ultrasound technology is a specialized technique that bounces soundwaves off moving objects within the body to determine speed and direction, specifically blood flow through the arteries and veins.
What is Vascular Disease?
Vascular disease affects the vascular system, which includes the veins and arteries that carry blood through the body. Vascular diseases include but are not limited to the following:
- Atherosclerosis (arterial blockages)
- Raynaud’s phenomenon (arterial spasm)
- Arterial compression
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots)
- Varicose veins
Several factors can increase your risk for vascular disease. These include family history, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, pregnancy, obesity, blood clotting disorders, etc. Despite the seriousness of the vascular disease, it is often treatable with early detection. Treatments range from lifestyle changes like reduced smoking and increased exercise, to medication and surgical procedures.
Diagnosing Vascular Disease
Vascular ultrasound is a safe and painless way to help diagnose vascular disease. The effects of such diseases in the veins and arteries can be detected through vascular ultrasound imaging. These effects include narrowing vessels, reduction in blood flow, bulging in the arteries, blood clots, swollen veins, and more.
If your doctor thinks you may be at risk for vascular disease, they will likely refer you for a vascular ultrasound exam including a Doppler ultrasound. These exams are performed by Registered Vascular Technologists who have been trained and certified. Here’s what to expect if you are referred for a vascular ultrasound exam:
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and remove all jewelry. You may be asked to change into a medical gown onsite.
- The ultrasound technologists will ask you to lie down on a table. The ultrasound machine consists of a video monitor, console, and handheld device called a transducer.
- The transducer emits harmless, high-frequency soundwaves that help create images of what’s happening inside the body. The technician will apply a small amount of gel to the transducer, which helps the soundwaves travel better by eliminating air pockets.
- Vascular ultrasound exams are quick, painless, and pose no known health risks. The only discomfort that may occur is when pressure is applied to a potentially sensitive or tender skin area. Pressure is applied to compress the veins being examined, which helps to identify potential blockages or stiffness that could indicate a more serious condition.
- A physician trained to read and interpret ultrasound images will then review the results and send them to your doctor for final diagnosis. Your doctor will then recommend an appropriate course of treatment if necessary.
Vascular ultrasound, including Doppler ultrasound technology, is a highly reliable way to help diagnose vascular disease when performed by trained technologists. Most vascular diseases are treatable; however, you can help prevent vascular disease before treatment is necessary by living a healthy, active lifestyle and attending regular check-ups with your doctor.
Guest Contributor: Jordan Galerkin
- Ultrasound. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ultrasound/about/pac-20395177
- Ultrasound. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ultrasound/about/pac-20395177
- Ultrasound – Vascular. Radiological Society of North America. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ultrasound/about/pac-20395177
- Diagnosing Vascular Disease. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Heart and Vascular Institute. https://www.upmc.com/services/heart-vascular/services/tests-procedures/vascular-disease-screening/diagnosing-vascular-disease
- What to Know About Vascular Disease. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vascular-disease