• Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound

    Definition

    Peripheral vascular ultrasound is a test used to evaluate the health of blood vessels. Ultrasound uses sound waves to capture images of structures inside the body. It is similar to the use of sonar in submarines.

    Reasons for Test

    The test may be used for the following reasons:
      To investigate the cause of the following symptoms in peripheral blood vessels (eg, neck, abdomen, arm, or leg):
      • Pain
      • Swelling
      • Increased warmth or coolness in the extremity
      • Difficulty finding pulses
      • Bulging veins
      To diagnose the cause or severity of:
      • Poor circulation due to blocked or narrowed blood vessels
      • Blood clots
      • Poor blood vessel function
    Leg Veins
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    The procedure is also used to evaluate the results of vascular surgery.

    Possible Complications

    There are no major complications associated with this test.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Test

    No special preparation is needed for this test. If you smoke, you may be asked to stop smoking prior to the test.

    Description of Test

    Gel will be placed on the skin of your arm or leg over the area being tested.
    There are two types of ultrasound:
    One is a simple one-dimensional beam that detects movement by making a swishing sound. A hand-held device is pushed against your skin in the area being tested. Sound waves are sent into the body and bounce back to the machine. This is used to detect blood flow in arteries that may be narrowed. It may also be used to check for blood flow in veins that the doctor is concerned about.
    The other technique makes a two-dimensional image. The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off structures in the body and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted to images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. He may make a photograph of them as well.

    After the Test

    You will be able to leave after the test is done.

    How Long Will It Take?

    30-60 minutes

    Will It Hurt?

    No

    Results

    The results will let your doctor know if you need further testing or treatment.

    Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if you have any questions about the test, your condition, or your test results.
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

    RESOURCES

    American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org/

    Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound http://www.sru.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Mount Sinai Hospital, Canada http://www.mtsinai.on.ca/

    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/splash/

    References

    Mercy Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.mercydesmoines.org/services/iowaHeartHospital/vascularUltrasound.asp . Accessed September 1, 2005.

    Peripheral vascular library. Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters website. Available at: http://www.chkd.org/about%5Fus/Radiology/PVL.pdf . Accessed September 1, 2005.

    Society for Vascular Ultrasound website. Available at: http://www.svunet.org/ . Accessed September 1, 2005.

    Revision Information

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