Vascular Ultrasound is used to evaluate the veins, arteries and blood flow of the body. Vascular sonographers employ ultrasound to detect plaque accumulation, blood clots, embolisms, blockages and similar problems. Vascular sonography can detect deep venous thrombosis, which is the presence of blood clots in major arm or leg veins. It allows doctors to determine if patients are good candidates for angioplasty and other interventions prior to undertaking these procedures. After arterial bypass surgery and other medical procedures, vascular ultrasound is used for follow-up assessment, sometimes immediately in the operating room. Finally, this type of ultrasound can detect an enlarged artery or aneurysm and allow for the thorough evaluation of varicose veins.
Pediatric vascular ultrasound images help medical providers successfully insert catheters and needles into the smaller-sized blood vessels of children and thus lower the risk of bleeding and extensive clot formation. They can also help doctors assess an artery-to-vein connection in the case of congenital malformations in the vascular system.
Limitations of Vascular Ultrasound
Vascular sonography has a limited ability to obtain images of blood vessels located deep in the body or smaller vessels in any location. A CT scan, MRI or other specialized test may be necessary to get good images of such vessels. Another limitation is that the ultrasound waves may be blocked from penetrating in locations where atherosclerosis has caused calcification in the arteries. In some cases, ultrasound is unable to distinguish a slightly obstructed vessel from one that is fully blocked. Finally, this test requires an ultrasound technologist and interpreting physician with specialized knowledge and qualifications in vascular ultrasound.