Vascular ultrasound is the general term for a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to evaluate the flow of blood in the arteries and veins.

Why would I need to have a vascular study?

Lower extremity venous ultrasound is typically performed if a clot in the vein is suspected. This type of clot is known as deep venous thrombosis or DVT. The veins in the legs are compressed and the blood flow is assessed to make sure the vein is not clogged. This test is also used to look for chronic venous insufficiency, or leaky valves in the veins. These leaky valves may cause swelling or edema, an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body.

Lower extremity arterial ultrasound may be performed in patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) to diagnose narrowing of arteries or the degree of the narrowing.

 

Other common types of vascular ultrasound performed include:

  • Carotid ultrasound -  is a painless imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your carotid arteries.
  • Abdominal aorta ultrasound - a non-invasive, painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to image the "aorta", the main blood vessel leading away from the heart.

 

What to expect during a vascular study

  • Your ultrasound test is performed by specially trained technologists and interpreted by a vascular physician or radiologist.
  • 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 little to no discomfort during the test. You may hear noises when the technologist listens to the blood flow and records measurements.