What is a Vascular Ultrasound?

What is a Vascular Ultrasound?

Whether you arrive at Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic in Shenandoah, Texas, to investigate unexplained leg pain and cramping, determine the best treatment option for your varicose veins, or check for a suspected deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a vascular ultrasound is often the first step in getting the answers you need. 

Here, board-certified nurse practitioner and clinical lipidology specialist Eliza Codd, ARNP, FNP-BC, AG-ACNP-BC, CLS, explains how this simple, noninvasive diagnostic imaging test works — and what it can tell us about your vascular health. 

What is a vascular ultrasound?

A vascular ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging test that assesses blood flow in the peripheral vessels — both arteries and veins — of your legs, arms, and neck. We can use it to check for a suspected vascular condition, see whether treatment for a diagnosed vascular problem has led to improved blood flow, look for blockages and blood clots, or visualize a varicose vein in greater detail to determine the best treatment approach.

How it works

This simple testing technique uses high-frequency sound waves, or ultrasound, to visualize blood flow through your vessels. Emitted by a handheld probe (transducer) that’s pressed against your skin, these high-frequency sound waves pass through your body tissues to reach your blood vessels, where they bounce off your circulating red blood cells. 

As the bouncing sound waves send their echoes back to the ultrasound computer, it translates the echoes into moving visual images of your blood flow. 

Because standard ultrasound testing doesn’t show blood flow, we use a special type that can. Known as Doppler ultrasound, this technique captures video images of internal structures and blood movement in real time. An enhanced form of Doppler ultrasound called a color Doppler uses different colors to show the direction of blood flow. 

What it reveals 

A vascular ultrasound estimates how fast blood flows through arteries and veins by measuring its frequency, or the rate of change in its pitch. Besides helping us assess circulation in your extremities, we can use ultrasound testing to detect:

In addition to exposing common blood vessel and circulatory problems, a vascular ultrasound can also help guide cardiovascular treatment choices or reveal whether previously employed interventions have been effective. 

When should I have a vascular ultrasound?

At Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic, our team recommends vascular ultrasound testing in a range of circumstances. We may use it to assess certain symptoms, such as:

We may also use it to confirm cases of suspected vascular disease, such as:

Lastly, we may recommend having a vascular ultrasound to help determine the severity and extent of bothersome varicose veins so we can tailor our treatment plan appropriately; we may also recommend it to determine whether you’re a good candidate for a vessel-opening surgery like angioplasty. 

Safe, painless, and completely noninvasive

A vascular ultrasound doesn’t rely on radiation, injectable dye, or surgically inserted scopes to attain real-time, accurate imaging of your blood flow — it just uses safe, painless, and totally noninvasive high-frequency sound waves to provide detailed information.

Even better, this quick test doesn’t require advance preparation apart from wearing loose, comfortable clothing. When you lie on the exam table, we apply lubricating gel to the skin over the vascular area we plan to assess. Then, we place the transducer against your skin, using the gel to facilitate its easy movement as we gather imaging information from across the area.

Because we perform vascular ultrasounds right here in our office, you can expect to have your results promptly — usually within the same office visit. To learn more, call Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic in Shenandoah, Texas, today, or click online to schedule a visit with our vascular experts any time. 

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