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Cardiovascular Care

Vascular Ultrasound

What is Vascular Ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, or sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Although this type of imaging is often found in Radiology or Diagnostic Imaging, this type of imaging does not use radiation or X-rays. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is usually a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease by looking at the body veins and arteries.

A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of a vascular ultrasound examination. This type of test 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.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

Sonography is a useful way of evaluating the body's circulatory system. Vascular ultrasound
is performed to:

  • help monitor the blood flow to organs and tissues throughout the body.
  • locate and identify blockages and abnormalities like blood clots, helping your doctor plan for effective treatment.
  • determine whether a patient is a good candidate for a procedure such as angioplasty, a procedure that opens up a blocked artery, increasing blood flow.
  • to plan or evaluate the success of surgical procedures that bypass blood vessels.

Doppler ultrasound images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

  • blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
  • narrowing of vessels
  • tumors and congenital malformations

How should I prepare for the procedure?

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You will need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined. You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure. If your abdominal vessels are being examined, unless the examination is performed on an urgent basis, it is often best to fast before the procedure.

What does the equipment look like?

Ultrasound scanners consist of a console containing a computer and electronics, a video display screen and a transducer that is used to scan the body. The transducer is a small hand-held device that resembles a microphone, attached to the scanner by a cord. The transducer sends out a high frequency sound wave and then listens for a returning sound wave or "echo."

The ultrasound image is immediately visible on a nearby screen that looks much like a computer or television monitor.

What will I experience during and after the procedure?

Most ultrasound examinations are painless, fast and easy.

After you are positioned on the examination table, the sonographer will apply some warm gel on your skin and then press the transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. There may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.

If a Doppler ultrasound study is performed, you may actually hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is monitored and measured. After an ultrasound exam,you should be able to resume your normal activities.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you. In some cases the radiologist may discuss preliminary results with you at the conclusion of your examination.

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