What is ultrasound?

An ultrasound (or Duplex) is a scanning method that uses high frequency sound waves to assess patients with vascular disease. It shows blood vessels (arteries and veins) in real time on a computer screen. It can also demonstrate blood flow through the vessels in colour (Doppler) which can be accompanied by sound. Ultrasound is non-invasive so there are no painful tubes or needles that need to be inserted into the body. It doesn’t require the use of potentially harmful dye or radiation and there are no known side-effects.

Who should perform my ultrasound?

An ultrasound is an operator-dependent examination so that its reliability depends on the experience and knowledge of the sonographer performing the scan and the Specialist interpreting the results. With modern advanced technology providing high quality images, a reliable sonographer can use their valuable years of experience and knowledge to identify vascular problems. Ultrasound changes can be subtle and potentially missed with older equipment and inexperience.

What conditions can ultrasound detect?

An ultrasound can identify the location and severity of narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis), aneurysms (dilated arteries), blood clots in veins (thrombosis) and abnormal blood flow through diseased varicose veins. As well as identifying these conditions, it can also be used to monitor for disease progression in patients not yet requiring treatment (surveillance), and to follow-up patients who have undergone a vascular procedure to ensure that the treatment remains effective.

Are other tests required in patients with vascular disease?

An ultrasound is the best method to initially investigate patients with suspected vascular disease however some patients may require more detailed studies such as angiography or computerised tomography (CT) scanning in order to plan any required treatment. These other tests are however are more invasive and carry some risk and ideally should not be arranged before seeing a vascular surgeon. Dr Freeman can provide advice in relation to whether there is a need for these additional tests to be carried out.

How should I prepare for my ultrasound?

Little or no special preparation is usually required for an ultrasound unless the ultrasound is around the abdomen (tummy) as gas in the bowel can interfere with ultrasound transmission. For this reason patients should ideally have nothing to eat (fast) after midnight for abdominal scans which are normally performed in the morning. You can however have water and take all of your medications.

If having a test for varicose veins do not wear compression stockings for 24 hours. Do not apply moisturisers on the day of the examination. Any bandages used for ulcers will need to be removed before attending your appointment and a clean simple dressing applied. If possible leave or remove all jewellery at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing to enable the sonographer to gain access to the targeted area for ultrasound.

Sydney Vascular Ultrasound provides specialised vascular and venous diagnostic imaging in Burwood, Bankstown and Liverpool.