Ultrasound tests are used in many fields of medicine. One of the best known, perhaps, is when a pregnant woman has an ultrasound to check on the health and development of her baby. Ultrasound, though, can also be used as a screening and diagnostic tool for vascular conditions.
At Comprehensive Vascular Care, with locations in Novi and Southfield, Michigan, our expert team of vascular surgeons use a noninvasive vascular ultrasound to evaluate the flow of blood through your vessels, look for blockages and blood clots, and assess any damage to your arteries and veins. There are actually five different types of vascular ultrasounds — here’s what the team wants you to know about the function of each of them.
Circulatory system basics
The heart is a muscular pump that usually beats about 60-100 times per minute. With each beat, it sends blood to all parts of our bodies, carrying and delivering oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to the tissues. Once that’s complete, the blood returns to the heart, which sends it on to the lungs to deliver waste carbon dioxide and pick up more oxygen. This cycle repeats continuously.
The circulatory system is made up of blood vessels that carry the blood from and to the heart. Arteries move it away from the heart, and veins carry it back to the heart. All pathways move only in one direction so everything goes where it’s supposed to and nowhere else.
The 5 types of vascular ultrasound and why each is used
Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging test used to evaluate the parts of the circulatory system, including the arteries, veins, and capillaries. There are five different types.
1. Carotid ultrasound (carotid duplex)
On each side of your neck, you have carotid arteries. A carotid ultrasound measures the rate at which blood flows through your carotid arteries, which provides information on possible blockages. The blockages are made of plaque, a sticky mix of fats, cell debris, and calcium, causing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease.
2. Aortic ultrasound
The aorta is the largest artery in your body and carries blood from your heart and lungs to the tissues. Your doctor will use an aortic ultrasound test to look for weaknesses in the artery that may lead to an aneurysm, or a rupture of the blood vessel, which can be fatal if not caught early.
3. Renal artery ultrasound
A renal artery ultrasound evaluates the arteries that supply blood to your kidneys. Your doctor uses this test to look for blockages in, or a narrowing of, the renal arteries, which can contribute to hypertension or renal dysfunction. It can also be used to monitor existing renal artery disease, or as a follow-up after surgery.
4. Mesenteric arterial duplex tests
A mesenteric duplex scan evaluates the arteries that lead to the liver, spleen, stomach, and intestines, and those within the kidney and the intestines. It looks for narrowing or blood flow blockages that can lead to abdominal pain or an ischemic bowel, inadequate blood flow to the intestines.
5. Lower extremity arterial Doppler exam
Your doctor may suggest a Doppler ultrasound exam if you show signs of decreased blood flow in the arteries or veins of your legs, arms, or neck. The reduced flow may be due to an arterial blockage, a blood clot inside a blood vessel, or an injury to a blood vessel. The Doppler ultrasound itself measures the blood pressure in your lower extremity arteries and veins, which is a measure of how freely blood flows. The test also helps to diagnose peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the legs and feet due to atherosclerosis.
If you need to see a vascular physician, like those at Comprehensive Vascular Care, chances are good that he’ll want to use an ultrasound to determine the health of your circulatory system. To learn more, or to set up a consultation, call us at either of our locations, or book online with us today.