Ultrasound is a primary diagnostic and visualization tool because of its convenience, safety and effectiveness. Ultrasound produces images of internal structures through the use of high-frequency sound waves, whose echoes are used to create moving and still images.
This visualization allows the doctor to target the location and precise nature of the problem area. Additionally, all image recording happens in "real" time as soon as the machine is turned on and placed on the body. There is no wait for any sort of picture development needed for x-rays and other imaging procedures.
How It Works
The ultrasound procedure begins with the patient lying down on the examination table as a water-based gel is applied to the area on their body that will be observed. This gel allows consistent contact between the body and the transducer, free of any air pockets that could get in the way. The transducer is kept firmly against the skin and is moved back and forth across the area to allow for the most detailed observation possible. The whole procedure usually takes 30 minutes.
There is no discomfort associated with this procedure, although if the part of your body being observed has already been tender there may be some slight pressure against it. If a Doppler type ultrasound is used, you may actually hear the pulses of the device. There is no clinical risk inherent in ultrasonography as it uses no invasive methods, no ionizing radiation, and does not cause any health problems.
Carotid ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that creates images from sound waves and is used to examine the two carotid arteries, which are located in the neck and send blood to the brain. This painless procedure is often performed to identify any plaque or other abnormalities within the arteries that may clog the passage and lead to a stroke or other serious complications.
This test may be performed regularly, especially for patients over the age of 55, or if your doctor suspects you may be at risk for a stroke. A carotid ultrasound usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes and the images can be viewed in real time on the screen as well as analyzed later by your doctor.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Ultrasound
An aneurysm is a localized, balloon-like expansion in a blood vessel, caused by weak vessel walls. The abdominal aorta refers to the part of the aorta (the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the legs) between the diaphragm and the legs. Hence, when a bulge occurs in the abdominal aorta, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
If an aneurysm is suspected, your doctor may perform an aortic ultrasound in order to confirm this diagnosis. Patients at risk for this condition, including smokers and those over the age of 60, should be screened regularly for an aortic aneurysm.
Ultrasound imaging can be very useful in assessing the condition of the aorta. The sound waves utilized in scanning the aorta can give very detailed information concerning the blood flow and quality of musculature surrounding this vital tissue. In fact, the speed at which the blood is flowing through the very beginning of the aorta can reveal the heart's condition as well.
Ultrasound is distinct from other imaging techniques such as X-Rays or MRIs in that the patient and doctor can both observe results as the readings are taken. This active form of imaging can greatly relax the patient and provide an overall more beneficial visit.
Peripheral Vascular Disease Ultrasound
Vascular disease is a serious condition that involves abnormal functioning within the veins of the legs, which can lead to complications such as aneurysm and stroke. A venous ultrasound provides diagnostic images of the vessels within the lower extremities, most commonly used to diagnose peripheral vascular disease. This procedure can identify narrowed or blocked arteries or veins and is essential in achieving successful vein treatment.
Many patients may experience significant vein reflux that can only be detected through ultrasound imaging. A venous ultrasound can show a thorough, detailed image of the veins, along with the direction of blood flow to help accurately diagnose vascular conditions. In addition to its diagnostic purpose, venous ultrasound can also be used to place a needle or catheter in a vein and plan out the removal of narrowed or blocked veins.
Once the results have been analyzed, your doctor will determine a personalized treatment plan to relieve swelling, pain and other symptoms, and to relieve any blockages within the legs to ensure proper blood flow.