Ultrasound imaging of the veins, also known as venous ultrasound, provides images of the veins throughout the body. A Doppler ultrasound study is usually an integral part of a venous 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 Veins?
Your medical provider may recommend a venous ultrasound to:
- determine the cause of long-standing leg swelling
- aid in the placement of a needle or catheter into a vein
- map out the veins in the leg or arm so that pieces of vein may be removed and used to bypass a narrowed or blocked blood vessel
- examine a blood vessel graft used for dialysis if it is not working as expected.
The most common reason for a venous ultrasound exam is to search for blood clots, especially in the veins of the leg. This condition is often referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. These clots may break off and pass into the lungs, where they can cause a dangerous condition called pulmonary embolism. If the blood clot in the leg is found early enough, treatment can be started to prevent it from passing to the lung.
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 veins takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete.