• Vascular Ultrasound and Vascular Laboratory

    Why should I have a vascular or Doppler ultrasound exam?

     Technologist performs vascular ultrasound procedure on patientA vascular ultrasound exam, often called a Doppler ultrasound scan, gives your doctor a great deal of information about your blood vessels and about the way blood is passing through them. Doppler ultrasound is particularly well suited to evaluating problems within your veins and arteries. Because we have blood vessels throughout our bodies, Doppler ultrasound may be used almost anywhere. Some of the most common sites where Doppler ultrasound is used are in the neck, abdomen, and legs.

    In your neck, Doppler ultrasound is used to look at carotid arteries. These vessels supply large amounts of blood to your brain and can become blocked. Blockage can lead to stroke. In your abdomen, Doppler ultrasound can be used to help evaluate blood flow to the liver and many other organs in your abdomen. Doppler ultrasound also is used to evaluate blood flow in your legs and can be helpful in identifying blockages in your arteries and clots in your veins.

    Most of the noninvasive ultrasound and physiologic vascular procedures are performed in the Vascular Laboratory, which specializes in vascular testing. The Vascular Laboratory is located within the Ultrasound Department. 

    Some of the more commonly performed vascular ultrasound tests are:

    • Carotid Doppler Ultrasound
      Doppler ultrasound evaluation of patients with carotid bruits, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Also used to follow up carotid disease.
    • Renal Artery Doppler Ultrasound following Renal Artery Stent Placement
      Doppler ultrasound evaluation of patients following renal artery stent placement for renal artery stenosis.
    • Resting Arterial Doppler and Exercise Arterial Doppler
      Physiological evaluation of patients with claudication (muscular pain or fatigue associated with exercise but relieved with rest), ischemic foot or toes, pain in legs during rest and non-healing ulcers on the legs or feet.
    • Upper and Lower-Extremity Venous Doppler Ultrasound
      Doppler ultrasound evaluation of patients for the presence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) associated with swelling of the extremities, pulmonary embolism and chronic venous insufficiency (varicose veins).
    • Hemodialysis Access Evaluation
      Doppler ultrasound evaluation of upper-extremity access graft for patients with suspected graft failure.
    • Mesenteric Artery Doppler Ultrasound
      Duplex ultrasound evaluation of patients with acute or chronic abdominal pain, for mesenteric artery disease.
    • Evaluation of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
      Physiological arterial evaluation of patients with upper extremity pain or paresthesia.
    • Pseudoaneurysm Evaluation
      Doppler ultrasound evaluation of patients following catheterization for possible arterial injury.


    Will it hurt? Are there any special preparations for the exam?

    There is no pain involved in an ultrasound examination, and for most Doppler ultrasound exams, no preparation is necessary. Your doctor could ask you to refrain from eating on the morning of your exam if the ultrasound scan involves your upper abdomen. A gel is applied to your skin and an instrument, called a transducer, is then placed on the area to be examined. This gel can feel cool and, even though it wipes off easily, it is a good idea to wear clothing that is easily washable. 

    What can I expect during the exam?

    The images made by the returning echoes are displayed on one or more monitors, which look like small television screens. In addition, returning sound waves that have been reflected by moving blood can be heard by means of speakers in the instrument. The sounds could be compared to the sound of wind blowing through the trees. The room is usually darkened during the examination to make it easier for the sonographer or doctor to see the images on the monitor. 

    How long will the exam take?

    The average Doppler ultrasound exam takes 30 to 60 minutes. The length of the exam depends on numerous factors, including the portion of your body to be examined and the complexity of the anatomy. With arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the vessels might be very difficult to evaluate and may require more scanning time. 

    Who will perform the exam?

    A Doppler ultrasound examination can be performed by a doctor or by a vascular technologist or sonographer - an individual specially trained to perform ultrasound exams. A doctor will interpret the examination results. 

    Will I need more than one exam?

    In many cases, follow-up exams are necessary to evaluate the progress of your condition or your response to therapy.

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