Ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that uses high- frequency sound waves to observe your heart beating or blood flowing through arteries and veins.
While ultrasound equipment is very sophisticated, the procedure itself is simple and painless. A technologist applies an acoustic gel to the tip of a transducer or probe. The probe is gently placed on your skin. The acoustical gel allows the passage of high-frequency sound waves from the probe to the tissue structure.
Tissue structure that may be studied include one or more of the following: heart chambers, heart valves, heart muscle, carotid (neck) arteries, the arteries and veins in the arms and legs, abdominal aorta, or renal (kidney) arteries.
Sound waves reflect off the tissue structure sending information back to the probe. This information is converted into electrical energy creating moving images on a TV screen. The images are recorded on videotape for the physician to review and interpret.
Echocardiography and Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound are widely used as effective diagnostic tools for heart and blood vessel diseases.
Echocardiogram (Cardiac Ultrasound)
An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart as it is beating. This enables your doctor to evaluate your valves, the strength and thickness of your heart muscle and the size of the chambers in your heart. The echocardiogram takes about 30 minutes. There are no special preparations or instructions for the study.
The cardiac doppler reveals the speed and direction of blood flow within the heart. Cardiac doppler is helpful in evaluating valve function. The doppler uses sound waves which reflect off the moving red blood cells within the heart chambers. It is usually performed with the two- dimensional echocardiogram. Color Flow Mapping is usually done in conjunction with the Doppler test. It shows speed and direction of blood flow, but the images are in color. The color allows the physician to “map” abnormalities in blood flow.
Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound
This procedure uses sound waves to obtain images and measure speed (velocity) of blood flow in carotids (neck), arms, legs, abdominal aorta, and renal (kidney) blood vessels. These images are analyzed to determine whether or not you have blockages in your arteries, blood clots in your veins, or if an abdominal aortic aneurysm is present.
Upper or Lower Arterial Evaluation
If you have blockages in your arteries, “intermittent claudication” (leg pain which occurs with walking, relieved at rest), previous balloon angioplasty/stent placement or bypass grafts of the legs, this test can determine the severity of the blockages, or potency of the angioplasty/stented areas or bypass grafts. During the test, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill to determine the effects of exercise on your circulation. Blood pressure cuffs are placed on your arms and ankles to obtain measurements during this procedure. The length of the test is 2 hours. No preparation is necessary.
Upper or Lower Venous Evaluation
This test determines if there are blood clots in the veins of your arms or legs. A venous evaluation requires 1-1/2 hours. No preparation is necessary.
This procedure uses sound waves to obtain color images of the arteries in your neck. The physician evaluates the images to determine to what extent these arteries are blocked and how much blood is flowing to your brain and eyes. There are two carotid arteries, one on each side of your neck. Both sides will be checked during the procedure. This test takes 30 minutes and no preparation is needed.
Renal Duplex Imaging
This ultrasound test may be ordered in conjunction with Abdominal Aortic Ultrasound. It determines if blockages are present in the renal (kidney) arteries, which interfere with the supply of blood to the kidneys. The exam requires approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours.