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.
Before the Test
- 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.
- Wear a loose-fitting shirt to allow the technologist easy access to your neck. Or, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
- You may be asked to remove all jewelry.
During the Test
- 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 is virtually no discomfort during the test. You may hear noises when the technologist listens to the blood flow and records 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?
There are no harmful side effects of this test. In addition, ultrasound does not use radiation, as X-ray tests do.
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.
Results and Follow-Up
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.