A vascular, duplex ultrasound or arterial Doppler ultrasound is a medical test that uses high frequency sound waves to examine the blood vessels of the body. Vascular ultrasounds are a non-invasive and safe way of providing detailed, real-time information about how blood is flowing through your body. They differ from regular ultrasound which can produce images but can’t be used for vein mapping or examining blood flow in the body.
What are Vascular Ultrasounds Used For?
Vascular ultrasounds can be used to diagnose many conditions including:
- Blood clots
- Varicose veins
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Poorly functioning valves in your leg veins
- Decreased blood circulation into your legs
- Heart valve defects and congenital heart disease
- Blocked artery
- Narrowing of an artery
- Bulging arteries
How It Works
Vascular ultrasounds are capable of tracking how fast blood is flowing by measuring the rate of change in its pitch. During a vascular ultrasound, a technician trained in ultrasound imaging presses a small hand-held device against your skin on the area being examined, moving from one spot to another as necessary.
Sound waves bounce off blood cells and return to the ultrasound machine. These sound waves are recorded and displayed on screen to create a vein map. The speed of the sound waves returning to the ultrasound machine reflect the speed of blood flow in the vessel. When blood is flowing too quickly, it can indicate narrowing or blockage.
Types of Vascular Ultrasounds
There are several different types of vascular ultrasound exams, including:
- Vascular ultrasound of the extremities looks at the arms or legs
- Carotid vascular ultrasound looks at the carotid artery in the neck
- Renal vascular ultrasound examines the kidneys and their blood vessels
- Arterial and venous ultrasound of the abdomen examines blood vessels and blood flow in the abdominal area.
Benefits of a Vascular Ultrasound
Vascular ultrasounds are an excellent diagnostic tool as it is non-invasive and doesn’t require exposure to radiation or contrast dye. It’s also beneficial due to the physiological information it provides about blood flow in the arteries and veins. Vascular ultrasound devices are also highly portable compared to other types of imaging such as CAT scans or MRI.