Vascular ultrasound is a general term used for a non-invasive painless test that uses high frequency sound waves to image blood vessels including arteries. A doppler ultrasound study is usually part of a vascular ultrasound examination. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood as it flows through a blood vessel, including the body’s major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck.
During a vascular ultrasound, sound waves are transmitted through the tissues of the areas being examined. These sound waves reflect off blood cells moving within the blood vessels, allowing the physician to calculate the speed of blood flow. The sound waves are recorded and displayed on a computer screen.
Vascular ultrasound is performed to locate and identify blockages (stenosis) and abnormalities like plaque or emboli and help plan for their effective treatment. It also helps in detecting blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) in the major veins of the legs and arms. Vascular ultrasound helps in determining whether a patient is a good candidate for a procedure such as angioplasty.
Vascular ultrasound is also used to determine if there is an enlarged artery (aneurysm) and also determine the source and severity of varicose veins. In children, vascular ultrasound is used to place a needle or catheter into a vein or artery to avoid complications such as bleeding and nerve injury.
A wide variety of ultrasound machines can used to perform a vascular ultrasound like portable, handheld and color doppler. To perform a vascular ultrasound procedure, a clear gel is applied on the targeted area that helps the transducer make secure contact with the body. It is made sure that there is no air between the transducer and the skin as they may block the sound waves from passing into the body. The transducer is then placed and moved over the skin in various locations. The sound waves strike the targeted area and then bounce back producing images on the computer screen. Doppler ultrasound is performed using the same transducer.