There are several different types of vascular ultrasounds, all of which have their purposes and uses. This guide will help you understand what to expect from each one and what your doctor hopes to find during the test. The vascular ultrasound gives doctors information about the amount of blood flowing through certain arteries or veins in your body. It can help identify anything that might impede that flow, such as plaque buildup, tumors, and more. First, let’s go over what happens during this type of ultrasound and how it works so you can prepare for your appointment if you need one or know someone who does.
How Does it Work?
A vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce images of your arteries and veins. The test is also called an arterial venous ultrasound, duplex scan, or Doppler ultrasound. During the test, a technologist will apply gel to your skin and then place a transducer (a small hand-held device) against your skin. The transducer emits sound waves that bounce off your blood vessels and create echoes. The echoes are translated into moving pictures on a monitor. You may feel pressure when the transducer touches your skin during the exam.
How Long Does it Take?
A vascular ultrasound usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes. The technologist will first take general measurements, such as the diameter of your blood vessels and the speed of blood flow. Then, they will focus on specific areas of interest. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time or to change positions so that the technologist can get a clear view of the blood vessels in question. As an imaging technique, vascular ultrasounds are relatively painless and harmless. Some people report being more uncomfortable during certain maneuvers than others, but no side effects have been reported. During one part of the exam, you might need to hold your breath briefly and there is always a chance that you could feel faint because you’re lying down for prolonged periods. But again, these symptoms should pass quickly when you return to normal activity. In rare cases, if not properly positioned or supported, there is also a small risk of nerve damage from prolonged pressure on the legs.
What Can you Expect During a Vascular Ultrasound?
A vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce images of your arteries and veins. The test is also called an arterial Doppler ultrasound or venous Doppler ultrasound. If you are pregnant, this ultrasound can measure the blood flow in the umbilical cord. A vascular ultrasound may also be used if you have a blood clot, inflammation, or trauma in the area being examined.
Understanding the Results
The results of your vascular ultrasound will be interpreted by a radiologist and then shared with your referring physician. They will look at the size, shape, and structure of your blood vessels and the flow of blood through them. All this information will determine if you have any blockages or narrowed areas in your vessels.
Questions to Ask Before and After
If you’re scheduled for a vascular ultrasound, you may be wondering what the procedure entails and what, if any, prep work is necessary. Here are a few questions to ask your doctor before and after your ultrasound:
- What should I do to prepare?
- What should I wear during the test?
- How long will it take?
- Is there anything that I can’t eat or drink before my exam?
- Ultrasound – Vascular. Radiological Society of North America, Inc. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/vascularus
- Frequently Asked Questions or What Can You Expect? UC Davis Health. https://health.ucdavis.edu/radiology/mymri/myexam/myvl/FAQ/vasfaq.html
- Vascular Ultrasound. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/17606-vascular-ultrasound