When a Vascular Ultrasound Is Recommended
Some of the advantages of using ultrasound for diagnostic imaging include that it is inexpensive and there is no exposure to ionizing radiation. The benefits are inherent for all types of ultrasounds.
A vascular ultrasound is one type of ultrasound that focuses on examining the circulation in the blood vessels across different parts of the body. The results of the ultrasound will help in assessing the presence and severity of circulatory problems and diseases, including the following.
Detecting Blood Clots
A vascular ultrasound helps in detecting blood clots. It is the primary diagnostic tool for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the major veins of the legs and arms. These clots can present blockages to the flow of blood in the vessels and may cause severe and life-threatening complications such as pulmonary embolism (PE).
Evaluating Blood Flow
The speed of blood flow in the vessels can be calculated based on how fast the sound waves return to the machine during a vascular ultrasound. From the results of this vascular flow study, it is possible to establish the presence and severity of diseases that affect blood flow.
Diagnose Artery Narrowing and Enlargement
Blood flowing through the vessels too fast is indicative of narrowing. Pinpointing precisely how severe the narrowing is depends on how fast the blood is flowing. Over time, blood flow through the narrowed arteries to the heart will decrease, causing you to experience the signs of coronary artery disease such as shortness of breath.
Similarly, the ultrasound can help diagnose artery enlargement, also called an aneurysm. This enlargement, if unchecked, can cause the artery to rupture, leading to severe bleeding that may even lead to death.
Pre-screening for Procedures and Assessing Procedure Success
A vascular ultrasound will show the severity of artery narrowing for a patient with coronary artery disease. It is based on this diagnosis that your cardiologist will decide whether you need and are a good candidate for surgical intervention or angioplasty. If the condition is still in the very early stages, medication, dietary and lifestyle changes will do, instead of jumping to surgery.
For patients who have gone through surgery to bypass or graft blood vessels, the ultrasound can evaluate the success of these procedures and check for any abnormal post-op blood flow.
A vascular ultrasound may take 30-45 minutes to complete or longer for the more complex examinations. As highlighted, the ultrasound gives a clear picture of your blood vessels, helping to diagnose a wide range of problems from clotting, blockages and leaks to artery narrowing and enlargement.