A vascular ultrasound is the general term for a non-invasive painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to image blood vessels including arteries and veins.
Lower extremity venous ultrasound is typically performed if a clot in the vein (deep venous thrombosis or DVT) is suspected. 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 which may cause swelling or edema.
Lower extremity arterial ultrasound may be performed in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), particularly for planning an endovascular procedure or surgery. It is also used after the procedure to monitor stents and grafts for signs of the blockage returning ("restenosis"). If a hematoma develops after a catheterization procedure, arterial ultrasound is also used to check the integrity of the arteries and veins in the groin.
A carotid ultrasound is a non-invasive, painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to image the neck arteries.
Atherosclerosis may occur in the blood vessels in the neck (the "carotid arteries") which supply blood to the brain. This condition is called carotid stenosis and is typically diagnosed using carotid ultrasound. This technique allows us to look for atherosclerotic plaque and to assess whether this plaque is interfering with blood flow to the brain. As the artery narrows, the velocity of the blood flow increases; ultrasound allows us to measure the speed of the blood flow in order to estimate the degree of blockage.
Your doctor may order a carotid ultrasound if a blockage is suspected based on listening to your neck or based on your cardiovascular risk profile. This test should also be performed if you have had a stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).
An ultrasound of the abdominal aorta is a non-invasive, painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to image the "aorta," the main blood vessel leading away from the heart.
When the walls of the abdominal aorta become weak, they may balloon outward If the aorta reaches over 3 centimeters in diameter, it is then called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). As the aneurysm gets larger, the risk of rupture increases.
Ultrasound imaging of the aorta is useful for measuring its size to screen for AAA. Screening is particularly recommended for men over the age of 60 who have ever smoked and for anyone with a family history of AAA. In addition to screening, ultrasound is also a useful tool after the diagnosis of AAA to monitor its size on a regular basis to see if it needs to be repaired.