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Understanding Vascular Ultrasound: What it is and why you might need one?
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Understanding Vascular Ultrasound: What it is and why you might need one?

by | May 2, 2023

A vascular Duplex ultrasound is a purely non-invasive test using gel and an ultrasound probe (see picture), to check the state of your arteries and veins in your body. It is commonly performed by a vascular surgeon to help detect abnormalities, blockages or abnormal dilatation of the blood vessels, including conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD), deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and aneurysms. Vascular ultrasound can be used to evaluate the arteries and veins in nearly any part of the body and it does not hurt, since it does not require needles, anesthesia or advanced preparation beforehand!

During a vascular ultrasound, the vascular surgeon uses a small linear probe called a transducer that transmits high frequency sound waves through your body. The probe collects the sound waves that bounce back off the structure it is looking at and generates an image to be viewed. These sound waves are harmless and do not use radiation. A vascular Duplex ultrasound also allows you to see blood flowing through your blood vessels and whether you may have an enlarged blood vessel called an aneurysm or a blockage or narrowing that may need to be ballooned (angioplasty).

As a patient, you can expect to experience minimal pain or discomfort during the vascular ultrasound. Gel is first applied to the probe transducer and then applied to the target area of the body. The transducer will be pressed against the skin gently and moved over the area in question to study the blood flow through the vein or artery. When blood flow is detected, you will hear a ‘whoosh whoosh’ noise from the ultrasound machine. Depending on the type of study required and the complexity, a Duplex ultrasound test normally takes 25-40 minutes to complete, and results are usually available very quickly.

If you have varicose veins for example, it is important to undergo a vascular ultrasound before surgery to check the size, extent and exact location of the faulty veins in your legs. Once this has been determined, the vascular surgeon may plan the most suitable treatment method, using the best device to block the varicose veins that are causing your symptoms.

Depending on the area required to be tested, you may need to fast before a vascular ultrasound to allow optimal visualization of the structures. For example, a vascular ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis will require you to fast for 4-6 hours before the examination, but you will be allowed to take your medications with sips of water. An ultrasound of your legs, on the other hand, requires minimal preparation and does not require you to fast.

Speak with us today if you are experiencing symptoms of vascular disease such as swelling, leg pain, or numbness, or if you are at high risk due to your family history, age, or lifestyle factors. A vascular ultrasound is a safe and painless test that can provide valuable data about your vascular health and early detection and treatment can help improve blood flow, reduce symptoms and prevent complications. It is becoming more popular in abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, diabetic foot screening to identify blockages in the arteries supplying the leg and foot and used frequently to rule out a DVT, when a patient develops pain, swelling and warmth in his/her calf.


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