Tests for Heart & Vascular Disease

Vascular Ultrasound

An ultrasound exam uses sound waves to examine abnormalities in veins and arteries. Specialized tests include:

  • Carotid Duplex Exam: An ultrasound exam to examine the arteries that supply blood to the head. This test is used to detect blockages that may have caused a stroke or stroke-like symptoms. This is the most common test done in the vascular lab.

  • Venous Duplex Exam: An ultrasound exam to examine veins in an extremity that has pain and swelling to rule out blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

  • Arterial Duplex Exam: An ultrasound exam to evaluate arteries in an extremity that has pain or cramping and the physician is concerned about a blockage in the artery.

  • Renal Artery Exam: An ultrasound exam to evaluate the renal artery blood flow when a patient has unexplained or uncontrollable hypertension.

  • Abdominal Aortic Exam: An ultrasound exam used to examine the abdominal aorta for aneurysm or other abnormalities.

  • Superior Mesenteric Duplex: An ultrasound exam to evaluate the superior mesenteric artery and celiac arteries in patients with sudden weight loss.

  • Transcranial Doppler: A Doppler exam to evaluate intracranial arteries for spasm and blockages.

In vascular ultrasound, a small instrument called a transducer sends ultrasound waves into the body. They bounce off blood vessels in the target area. The ultrasound machine receives the returning sound waves, and the computer creates an image of the blood vessels. The images are displayed on a monitor. They can be recorded on videotape or stored digitally.

Why do vascular ultrasound?
Usually to look for blockages in the arteries or blood clots in the veins. Different symptoms call for different kinds of vascular exams.

Is it safe?
Very. Ultrasound has been used for more than 30 years, and there are no known risks or side effects. Vascular ultrasound is painless, although there may be some slight discomfort from the pressure of the transducer.

What are the benefits?
Vascular studies are non-invasive and low in cost when compared to other types of tests. They provide important information about the structure of blood vessels and the blood flow through them.

What are the limitations?
Vascular studies may be less accurate if the patient is obese or if there is gas in the bowel.

How soon will I know the test results?
If the vascular physician is present during the test, you may get the results before you leave. Usually patients discuss the results of the exam with their own doctor at a later date.

Print a Quick Reference to Vascular Ultrasound (pdf)