Decades ago there was a ride at Epcot in Orlando, Florida called Body Wars. This ride provided park-goers the chance to experience what it may be like to travel through the veins and arteries and see first-hand how the body’s white blood cells respond to the small trauma of a splinter. Fortunately, cardiologists don’t depend on the imaginary journey of this Epcot ride to get a clear look at what is happening inside our bodies. The Vascular Ultrasound is your doctor’s real-life version of this adventure ride and takes place without ever having to pierce your skin.
Vascular Ultrasound is an incredible technology that allows cardiologists to see inside your veins. The procedure is non-invasive and highly effective. During the vascular ultrasound, a technician uses an ultrasound device to transmit sound waves through the body. Then, the vascular ultrasound machine creates images based upon the echoes that it picks up. The vascular ultrasound is performed around the area in question to develop an image of the vascular structure and determine how healthy it is. If you are undergoing this test, your cardiologist is looking for potential blockages or structural issues in the vasculature. There are many different reasons that a cardiologist would order a Vascular Ultrasound.
Here are some of the conditions your doctor may be trying to diagnose:
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis, commonly referred to as DVT, is a very serious condition where a dangerous blood clot forms in the veins deep in your body. Most often this occurs in the legs, but it can also happen in the upper extremities. The risk of DVT blood clots is that the clot could dislodge from its position and end up somewhere else in the body. A common result of DVT is a pulmonary embolism that occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs. If your physician suspects you have a DVT blood clot they will most likely send you for a Vascular Ultrasound. This is the best way to diagnose your condition so that it can be treated effectively.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Another condition diagnosed with a Vascular Ultrasound is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). CVI is another condition that affects the lower extremities. It occurs when the veins of the legs are not effectively pumping blood back up to the heart. The problem can originate in either the weakened walls of veins or valves that cannot effectively pump blood back to the heart. These deficiencies can lead to blood accumulating in the legs and are commonly associated with varicose veins. This condition is very uncomfortable and can have symptoms ranging from swelling and itching to ulcers and other serious complications. Vascular ultrasound enables a cardiologist to visualize the ineffective veins and diagnose CVI so that it can be treated.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Unlike CVI, which occurs when there are structural insufficiencies in the veins of the legs, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) occurs when the veins of the legs are narrowed due to an accumulation of fatty deposits in your veins. When PAD is discovered, it is a good sign that these deposits, also commonly known as plaque, are a more far-reaching issue in the body called atherosclerosis. Vascular ultrasound can help your cardiologist determine how much blockage has occurred in your legs and what can be done to treat it or prevent further blockages.
When blockages occur cardiologists often implant tiny metal stents to hold open the artery and allow blood to flow freely. For some patients, these stents can mean the difference between life and death. But stents aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of technology. Your cardiologist will want to keep an eye on your stent to ensure that it is functioning properly and your blood is still flowing successfully. Vascular ultrasound is the ideal technology for monitoring your stents. The non-invasive nature of the vascular ultrasound allows a cardiologist to keep tabs on a stent regularly without having to put the body under any unnecessary stress.
Vascular ultrasound is a simple test that takes 15 minutes or less to perform, yet it is powerful enough to diagnose serious conditions and track a patient’s health over time. If you’ve had an ultrasound of any kind you know first hand how easy and unstressful the examination is and yet how much critical information can be gathered. While we may not be loading cardiologists into a tiny vehicle to explore the insides of their patients’ hearts in the style of Epcot’s late Body Wars ride, we hope you are encouraged at how much powerful data can be collected using the vascular ultrasound.
Our patients are routinely tested using the vascular ultrasound for these conditions and others. It is one of the many tests we offer that provide valuable information and enable our team of doctors to more effectively diagnose and treat a variety of different cardiovascular diseases. If you have symptoms of any of the conditions listed above, particularly aching pain and swelling in the arms and legs, you are probably an ideal candidate for a vascular ultrasound. For more information about how you can receive a vascular ultrasound or if you’d like to speak to a member of our team, contact us today.