An arterial ultrasound is a non-invasive test that examines the arteries carrying blood from the heart to the extremities. It can detect any buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can cause narrowings or blockages that restrict blood flow, a condition known as peripheral arterial disease. Symptoms of peripheral arterial disease include reproducible cramping pain in the legs or buttocks after walking a certain distance, as well as numbness in the feet which is most severe at night when lying down. The test can help diagnose and monitor this condition.
A lower arterial ultrasound examines the blood flow in the arteries of the legs and feet, while an upper arterial ultrasound evaluates the arteries in the arms and neck. The procedures are similar, but the specific areas being examined are different, as the blood flow patterns and potential issues can vary between the upper and lower extremities.
While no specific preparation is required for an arterial ultrasound, you may be asked to change into a gown to expose the area being examined. If your lower extremities are being examined, you will need to remove your shoes, socks, and pants. The procedure itself is non-invasive and painless.
An arterial ultrasound is typically performed to evaluate blood flow in the arteries of the body. It can help diagnose conditions such as peripheral artery disease, aneurysms, and arterial blockages. The test is non-invasive and uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the arteries, which can be used to identify any potential issues.
During an arterial ultrasound, a technician will apply gel to the area being examined and use a small device called a transducer to emit high-frequency sound waves. The transducer will be moved around the area to create images of the arteries on a nearby screen. You may be asked to change into a gown and remove clothing from the area being examined.
After an arterial ultrasound, if a mild stenosis is detected, a follow-up ultrasound may be recommended to monitor the narrowing. However, if a severe stenosis or occlusion is found, a referral to a specialist for further evaluation may be necessary. Severe narrowings and blockages can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure called percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, which involves opening the narrowed artery with a balloon.
Arterial ultrasound is generally considered safe and non-invasive, with no known risks or complications. The procedure does not use radiation or require the use of contrast dye.
An arterial ultrasound can be used in combination with an ABI/PVR test to evaluate for peripheral arterial disease. While the arterial ultrasound directly examines the arteries, the ABI/PVR test assesses whether circulation to the extremities is impaired. These tests are complementary and can provide a more comprehensive assessment of blood flow in the body.