Ultrasound imaging of the vascular system, also known as vascular ultrasound, provides images to identify any blockages, known as stenosis, in the arteries or veins in the body. Blockages may result in the development of blood clots.

A Doppler ultrasound study is usually an integral part of a vascular ultrasound examination. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood flow through a blood vessel.

Ultrasound imaging uses a small probe, called a transducer, and gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves travel from the probe, through the gel, into the body. The probe collects the sounds that bounce back. A computer uses those sound waves to create the images for the exam.

Ultrasound is painless and non-invasive.

When would I get an Ultrasound of the Vascular System?

Your medical provider may recommend a vascular ultrasound to:

  • help monitor the blood flow to organs and tissues throughout the body
  • locate and identify stenosis and abnormalities like plaque or emboli and help plan for their effective treatment
  • detect blood clots, known as Deep Venous Thrombosis or DVT, in the major veins of the legs or arms
  • determine whether a patient is a suitable candidate for a procedure such as angioplasty
  • evaluate the success of procedures that graft or bypass blood vessels
  • determine if there is an enlarged artery, known as an aneurysm
  • determine the source and severity of varicose veins.

What Will I Experience?

For most ultrasound exams, you will lie on your back on an exam table. You may have your position adjusted to either side in order to improve the quality of the images captured during the exam.

An ultrasound technologist will apply a warm water-based gel to the area of the body being studied. The gel will help the transducer make secure contact with the body and eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin that can block the sound waves from passing into your body. The transducer is placed on the body and moved back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured.

There is usually no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined. However, if scanning is performed over an area that is tender or sensitive, you may feel some pressure or minor discomfort from the transducer.

Once the exam is complete, the clear ultrasound gel will be wiped off your skin. Any portions that are not wiped off will dry quickly. The ultrasound gel does not usually stain or discolor clothing.

Typically, ultrasound imaging of the vascular system takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete.