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What is Vascular Disease? (formerly Vascular Laboratory info)

What Does 'Vascular' Mean?

The word vascular refers to our body's circulatory system — the blood vessels which carry blood from the heart to the body's organs (the arteries) and from the organs back to the heart (the veins).

What is Vascular Disease?

Vascular disease refers to the unhealthy changes which occur in our blood vessels as we age. Examples include plaque build-up in the arteries, varicose veins and blood clots in the veins.

What to Expect 

The medical specialty of vascular technology utilizes diagnostic high frequency sound waves, similar to the sonar that a ship uses to detect structures beneath the surface of the water. The high frequency sound waves generate images or Doppler waveforms of blood flow within the veins and arteries. Vascular ultrasound procedures are noninvasive, meaning they do not require the use of needles, dyes, radiation or anesthesia and are, therefore, relatively painless and harmless.

The information obtained through vascular examinations is extremely helpful to physicians in diagnosing a variety of conditions related to cardiovascular disease, disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Early detection of life-threatening vascular diseases is possible through the use of noninvasive vascular testing techniques performed within vascular facilities.

A registered vascular technologist or RVT will perform the place a clear gel on the skin and use an ultrasound scanning probe to obtain images of your arteries and veins or a continuous wave probe to obtain segmental Doppler waveforms.

Noninvasive Vascular Laboratory Testing

The MetroHealth Noninvasive Vascular Laboratory specializes in several tests that look for vascular diseases that may affect how well blood flows in the arteries and veins. The lab examines blood vessels throughout the body that feed major organs and tissue. These tests can help to diagnose and treat many vascular conditions, including peripheral arterial disease (PAD), stroke, aneurysms, and deep vein thrombosis. Our lab is staffed by registered vascular technologists (RVT). The MetroHealth Noninvasive Vascular Laboratory has been re-accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission for Vascular Laboratory, making it one of the nation's select vascular labs. 

We perform the following tests:

Carotid ultrasound – ultrasound of the carotid arteries in the neck to identify or rule out blockages that can lead to a stroke. During a Carotid Duplex or Doppler examination, ultrasound is used to evaluate the carotid arteries located in the neck that feed the brain with blood. Gel is applied to the skin of the neck. A transducer is then placed on the gel-covered areas to obtain images and evaluate the blood flow in the arteries. Your doctor may order this test if you have physical examination findings or symptoms that suggest that you may have a blockage in the carotid artery. 

Temporal Artery Duplex – An accurate, noninvasive test to evaluate patients for giant cell arteritis. 

Peripheral Venous ultrasound - Ultrasound is used to evaluate the veins that carry blood to the heart from the legs or arms. Gel is applied to the skin of the legs or arms. A transducer is then placed on the gel-covered areas to obtain images and evaluate blood flow in the veins. This a painless accurate exam to assess patients for blood clots in the arms or legs. It is also used to evaluate the etiology of varicose veins.

Arterial Duplex - during an Arterial Duplex or Doppler examination, ultrasound is used to evaluate the arteries that feed the arms and legs with blood. This gauges the arterial flow thru native arteries and can identify narrowed arteries or total occlusions. It is also used to evalaute the functionality of existing vascular bypasses.

Arterial Pressures and Waveforms - during the exam, several blood pressure cuffs are placed at different segments on the patient's legs or arms. When inflated, the cuffs provide blood pressure readings, Doppler waveforms are obtained. This test will locate areas of blockage within the arteries and provides an accurate measurement of the functional level of the arterial circulation of the legs & arms. Often used in conjunction with arterial duplex. Your doctor may order this test to evaluate the cause of pain in the leg muscles with walking. 

Abdominal Vascular Duplex - during an Abdominal Vascular Duplex examination, ultrasound is used to evaluate the blood vessels that bring blood to and away from the abdominal organs. Gel is applied to the abdomen. A transducer is then placed on the gel-covered areas to obtain images and evaluate blood flow in the arteries and/or veins.

Abdominal Vascular Duplex includes:

  • Renal ultrasound – ultrasound of the blood flow to the kidney to evaluate if there are significant blockages to the kidneys.
  • Abdominal ultrasound – ultrasound of the abdomen for identification and evaluation of aneurysmal disease of the aorta and its branches.
  • Mesenteric ultrasound – ultrasound of the mesenteric arteries to evaluate blockages that may be contributing to abdominal pain or ischemia of the intestines.

What to Expect

A registered vascular technologist or RVT will perform the place a clear gel on the skin and use an ultrasound scanning probe to obtain images of your arteries and veins.

Before the Test

  • Confirm specific medication and dietary restrictions with your physician.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.

After the Test

Your report will be reviewed and read by a vascular surgeon trained in the reading of vascular lab examinations and this report will be sent to your referring physician. If indicated, you may also have an appointment with a vascular physician who will review your symptoms and the findings of the vascular laboratory testing to design a treatment program to improve your condition.

Risks

There are usually no side effects or complications associated with ABI and duplex ultrasound examinations.

Excerpts of this information are taken from the Society for Vascular Ultrasound's five copyrighted patient education brochures, including "Vascular Testing and You." 

Content reprinted with permission from the Society for Vascular Surgery® (SVS).

 

Vascular Appointments

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