Duplex Ultrasound – Test of Many Names

One of the great advantages of modern medicine is the ability to obtain information about what’s going on inside the body. Superman had X-ray vision, but today’s doctors have the duplex ultrasound, variously known as a Doppler test, vascular lab test, duplex exam, duplex scan, ultrasound, ultrasound exam, vascular ultrasound and peripheral vascular ultrasound. Here’s some basic information about the duplex ultrasound (we’ll just stick to that name for the moment) from Dr. Stephen Jung, of the Columbus Vein Center.

What is Duplex Ultrasound?

Traditional ultrasound is a technique that bounces sound waves off structures in the body to create pictures. A duplex ultrasound combines that technique with sound waves that bounce off moving objects like blood. This creates a recording that can measure the speed and force of the flow and identify any obstructions. Duplex ultrasounds are used to examine blood flow and the condition of the blood vessels in a particular area of the body. Duplex ultrasounds can be used to examine the abdomen, carotid arteries in the neck, blood flow in the extremities and in the kidneys and related blood vessels.

What is Duplex Ultrasound Used For?

The key to a duplex ultrasound is the ability to look at blood flow. Less invasive than arteriograms and venograms, which involve placing a catheter in a blood vessel and injecting dye, an ultrasound can be used in a doctor’s office or clinic. In the abdomen, an ultrasound can show signs of an aneurysm – a weak spot in the artery wall that can expand under pressure and break open. Ultrasounds can show if an artery is blocked or has a blood clot, or if there is blood vessel disease in an area like the kidney. Vein doctors and vascular surgeons often use ultrasounds to evaluate varicose veins or to check for a condition called venous insufficiency, which may precede varicose veins.

What’s the Procedure Like?

An ultrasound should always be performed by a credentialed technician in an accredited vascular laboratory. The test generally takes about 30 minutes and there are usually no side effects or complications. The technician will spread a special gel over the area being examined. The gel helps transmit sound waves. A wand or headpiece called a transducer is moved slowly over the area being examined; the wand is what transmits the sound waves through the tissues. The wand is connected to a computer that measures the readings and changes them into pictures. The Doppler part of the ultrasound creates a swishing noise as the blood moves through your arteries and veins. You may be asked to hold still or change positions and may need to take a deep breath and hold it. Once the test is complete, there is no recovery time; you can go about your usual activities.

Results from the duplex ultrasound are quickly available to your doctor, who can discuss the findings with you. The results can help plan your future care. If you have questions about the duplex ultrasound, please contact us at the Columbus Vein Center.