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Vascular Ultrasound Study at UPMC in Central Pa.

Vascular ultrasound studies are non-invasive procedures used to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins.

What are vascular ultrasound studies?

A transducer, similar to a microphone, is placed on the skin at certain locations and angles so that ultrasonic sound waves can move through the skin and other body tissues to the blood vessels. The transducer picks up the reflected waves and sends them to an amplifier, which creates an image of the veins, arteries, and organs.

Vascular studies utilize one of these special types of ultrasound technology:

  • Doppler Ultrasound. Used to measure and assess the flow of blood through the blood vessels. The amount of blood pumped with each beat is an indication of the size of a vessel’s opening. Doppler can also detect abnormal blood flow within a vessel, which can indicate a blockage caused by a blood clot, plaque or inflammation.
  • Color Doppler. An enhanced form of Doppler ultrasound technology where different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow and blockages.

Reasons for Vascular Studies

Doctors use vascular studies to evaluate the signs and symptoms of several conditions that may cause decreased blood flow in the arteries and/or veins of your neck, abdomen, legs or arms, including:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Aneurysm
  • Embolus or thrombus
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Varicose veins

How to Prepare

Generally, for carotid Dopplers and arterial/venous Dopplers of the extremities there is no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation required. For Abdominal Dopplers you will be required to fast prior to testing. If you smoke, your doctor will ask you to refrain from smoking for at least two hours before the test, as smoking causes blood vessels to constrict.

What to Expect

  • A vascular study may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your hospital stay.
  • You will lie down and a clear gel will be placed on the skin at certain locations. The Doppler transducer will be pressed against your skin and moved around. When blood flow is detected, you will hear a "whoosh, whoosh" sound and the probe will continue to be moved around to compare blood flow in different areas of the artery or vein.
  • For arterial studies of the legs, blood pressure cuffs will be applied in three positions on your leg (the thigh, calf and ankle) and inflated in order to compare the blood pressure between the different areas. The blood pressure will be taken in the arm on the same side as the leg that was just studied and used to determine the degree of any occlusion of arterial flow in your legs.
  • Once the procedure has been completed, the gel will be removed.

After the Procedure

There is no special type of care following a vascular study. However, your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on the results.

Need more information?

Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Practices
Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Perry Counties: 717-731-0101
Pediatric : 717-761-0200
Hanover: 717-637-1738
York: 717-849-5576
Lancaster/Lititz: 717-299-5000
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery: 717-231-8555

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UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Commerce Park Professional Center
20 Expedition Trail
Suite 203
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Office Building
310 Stock Street
Suite 3
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

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