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Vascular Ultrasound

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 recommended that you have this test to evaluate the blood flow to specific organs in your body. Vascular ultrasound can be used to evaluate:

  • The blood flow in the arteries in your neck that supply blood to the brain
  • The blood flow to a newly transplanted organ
  • Blood flow in the arteries to detect the presence, severity and specific location of a narrowed area of the arteries

How long is the test?

The ultrasound takes about 30 to 90 minutes to complete. Please plan to arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to complete the registration process.

  • Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry and credit cards.
  • There is no special preparation before the test; you may take your usual medications and you may eat and drink as you normally would.
  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove all jewelry.
  • Your ultrasound test is performed by specially trained technologists and interpreted by a vascular physician.
  • You will lie on a padded examining table during the test.
  • A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes.
  • A small device called a transducer is placed over the gel-coated area to be examined. The transducer produces images on the ultrasound screen. The transducer is held in place until the blood flow information has been recorded.
  • There may be some minor discomfort during the exam when the technologist applies pressure to your arms or legs. You may hear noises when the technologist listens to the blood flow and records the measurements.

The gel will be wiped off your skin. There are no special instructions to follow after the test. You may go home or to your other scheduled appointments after the vascular ultrasound.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Studies have shown there are no harmful side effects of the vascular ultrasound test.

How will I receive the results of the test?

After a vascular medicine physician reviews the test results, a final report will be generated. Your physician will provide the test results to you.

Learn more about Vascular Lab Services and find a location near you.
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.

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

Schedule an Appointment

Toll-free 800.659.7822

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2014 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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