Vascular Sonography Basics
There is a type of sonography program that deals with the blood vessels and blood flow. This type of sonography program is called vascular sonography or vascular ultrasound.
Vascular ultrasound is used to evaluate the blood flow in the arteries and veins. This type of sonography program has many applications, which include the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis, atherosclerosis and congenital vascular malformations. Besides its diagnostic capabilities, this type of sonography program can be used to determine whether or not a patient is a good candidate for vascular procedures such as angioplasty.
Vascular sonography can also be used to evaluate the success of a surgical procedure like bypass surgery or graft transplantations. Adequate blood flow to the graft will indicate successful graft transplantation. This type of sonography program could also help in determining the blood flow to tumors and chronic wounds in order to aid in treatment planning.
Vascular sonography will also help in the identification of blood clots or other blockages to blood flow. This type of sonography program can reveal blood clots that require anticoagulant therapy, blood clots that may travel or embolize to other organs, and blockages to blood flow in the brain that might result in a stroke.
This type of sonography program is usually performed in a hospital’s radiology department or its vascular laboratory. However since vascular ultrasound units are quite portable, vascular sonography can be performed at the bedside of patients in the emergency room or anywhere else in the hospital for that matter.
This type of sonography program may be recommended by a primary care physician after detecting sounds of abnormal blood flow. Patients with suspected abnormalities in the superficial blood vessels in the arms and legs, or those patients with suspected narrowing of carotid arteries in the neck will benefit greatly from this sonography program. It can also be used to detect narrowing of the deeper abdominal vessels or to rule out bleeding in the abdomen following trauma.
Vascular sonography, like any other type of sonography program relies on ultrasonic sound waves transmitted at high frequencies beyond the level of human hearing. These sound waves are aimed at the area of interest and depending on the tissue or liquid it encounters, different echoes return to the scanner. This type of sonography program can be performed both using a handheld portable ultrasound scanner and a larger mobile scanner, both of which have an ultrasound probe with a transducer, and a computer processes the echoed sound waves into an image. The larger scanners are usually equipped with some type of image acquisition system in order to record the examination as well as a medical image printer for hard copies.
The images acquired through the vascular sonography program are usually displayed as gray-scale or Doppler images. These images use different shades of gray in order to indicate differences in the strength of echoes, the echoes from blood being of a lower strength and appearing darker than the surrounding tissue. The gray-scale images can depict the layers of the vessel wall and can also show real-time arterial motion. Normal results will show normal blood flow in the area under examination.
On the other hand, abnormal results will show abnormalities in the flow of blood. The sonogram will identify obstructions and abnormalities in the blood vessels, including blood clots, arterial plaques, and stenoses. The results might indicate a diagnosis of DVT, internal bleeding (in the abdomen), or inadequate blood flow to a grafted area.