A duplex ultrasound is a test that checks to see how blood is moving through your arteries and veins. A Duplex ultrasound combines two different ultrasound techniques, the doppler and the traditions ultrasound. The doppler ultrasound method records sound waves that reflect off moving objects (in this case your blood) and measures their speed and other things about the way they move. The traditional ultrasound is a type of ultrasound uses sound waves. The sound waves bounce off of your blood vessels (your arteries and veins) and create pictures.
- Arterial and Venous Duplex Ultrasound: This is an ultrasound performed on your abdomen. Your doctor will be able to examine your blood vessels and blood flow in your abdominal area.
- Carotid Duplex Ultrasound: Your doctor can examine your carotid artery, which is located in your neck and facilitates blood flow to your head, face, and brain.
- Duplex Ultrasound of Extremities: This type of ultrasound looks at the blood vessels in your arms or legs.
- Renal Duplex Ultrasound: This examines the way your blood is moving through your kidneys and the blood vessels attached to them.
A duplex ultrasound is an outpatient procedure, which means you will not have to check into a hospital. It can even be performed in your doctors office, or a special ultrasound center. It is not invasive or even uncomfortable most of the time. You may feel some pressure as the wand moves over your body, and the gel used may feel a bit cold. You may be asked to wear a medical gown. After you lie down on a table, the ultrasound technician will spread a gel over whatever area on your body needs to be examined. This special gel is a clear gooey substance that looks like hair gel or aloe vera. It contains various combinations of glycerine, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, carbapol R 940 polymer, and lots of water. It will also sometimes contain perfumes or dyes. This gel helps the sound waves get into your tissues. A smooth wand (a device called a transducer) is moved over the area of your body being tested. This wand sends sound waves into your tissues. A computer will measure the way these sound waves reflect back, changing the sound waves into pictures on a screen.
The Doppler will create a swishing sound. This is the sound of your blood moving through your arteries and veins. Make sure you stay still during a duplex ultrasound. Your ultrasound technician may ask you to lie in different body positions, or to take a deep breath and hold it. These requests may feel odd, but it will help them get the best, most accurate information possible about your blood vessels. Think of it as modeling the interior of your body for the camera! If you are having a duplex ultrasound of your legs or arms, your health care provider may need to take an ankle-brachial index. This will require some physical activity on a treadmill, and inflatable cuffs attached to your wrists and ankles will compare the blood pressure of these two extremities.
Usually, you will not have to prepare in any special way for your duplex ultrasound. If you are having an ultrasound of your stomach area, you may be asked to not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure. You will have to tell the ultrasound technician about the medications and supplements you are taking, especially blood thinning medications (anticoagulants). These medications might affect the results of the duplex ultrasound.
Examples of anticoagulants are:
- Dalteparin Sodium
- Heparin Sodium
Duplex ultrasound procedures help show your doctor how your blood flows to all the parts of your body. It can tell you the words of your blood vessels and reveal where there are blockages. Many of the conditions that are diagnosed through duplex ultrasound techniques are caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries (vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body).
A duplex ultrasound can diagnose and help reveal conditions. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the section of your aorta, which is the main artery of your body. Your aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Arterial occlusion, this is characterized by chronic muscle pain in your legs. Because of an inadequate amount of blood flow in your legs, you will experience pain during physical activity that is relieved after a short rest. Blood clots are thickened masses in your blood formed by tiny substances called platelets. They form to stop bleeding at the site of a cut or wound, but should not form while blood is moving throughout your body. Serious health problems can occur when clots form inside your blood vessels. Other benefits include revealing cartoid occlusive disease, kidney transplant progress, renal vascular disease veins, and venous insufficiency.
Talk with your doctor about which procedure is right for you.
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