What is ultrasonography?

In ultrasonography (ultrasound), high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images.

Ultrasound images help in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases and conditions. The idea for ultrasonography came from sonar technology, which makes use of sound waves to detect underwater objects.

Ultrasound is used to create images of soft tissue structures and can also be used to detect blockages in the blood vessels. Ultrasound may be used with other diagnostic procedures or by itself.

What is a vascular ultrasound?

Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive ultrasound method (also called a duplex study) used to examine the blood circulation in the arms and legs. Noninvasive means the procedure does not require the use of needles, dyes, radiation or anesthesia.

During a vascular ultrasound, sound waves are transmitted through the tissues of the area being examined. These sound waves reflect off blood cells moving within the blood vessels, allowing the reading physician to calculate their speed. The sound waves are recorded and displayed on a computer screen.

Why do I need this test?

Your physician has ordered this test to determine if the vessels that provide circulation to the face and brain are patent (open) and do not have blockages. If narrowing of the arteries in your neck is suspected, this test will help the doctor determine the degree of narrowing. This test is often ordered before surgical procedures, especially open-heart surgery.

How long is the test?

The ultrasound takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Please plan to arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to complete the registration process.

Reviewed: 04/13

This information is about testing and procedures and may include instructions specific to Cleveland Clinic.
Please consult your physician for information pertaining to your testing.