Why a Vein Doctor Uses Duplex Ultrasound

Some patients find varicose veins an annoyance because of their bulging, ropelike appearance.  For others, they are a major source of discomfort that could cause complications if untreated.  Duplex ultrasound is one essential tool a vein doctor uses in locating abnormal vessels and formulating a treatment plan.

How Duplex Ultrasound Works

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, vein doctors utilize this non-invasive procedure to check how blood flows in veins and also to hunt for blood clots.  The specialists who typically use this technology at a vein clinic are vascular surgeons.

MedlinePlus indicates that medical providers also refer to duplex ultrasound as vascular ultrasound and peripheral vascular ultrasound.  It combines two ultrasound technologies:

  • Traditional creates pictures as sound waves bounce off vessels.
  • Doppler captures a record as waves reflect off objects in motion such as blood.  It measures speed and other blood flow characteristics.

Vein doctors use duplex ultrasound to find problem blood vessels, make a specific diagnosis, and recommend a customized treatment plan for a varicose vein patient.  The procedure is particularly useful when determining if the individual has any complications, particularly blockages.  In addition to examining vein problems in the legs, it is helpful for investigating how blood flows through the arms, neck, kidneys, and abdomen.

What to Expect at a Vein Treatment Center

Cedars-Sinai® reports that a duplex ultrasound procedure for varicose veins requires no particular preparation.  However, many patients bring something to read or music with them to enjoy while waiting.

Vascular surgeons utilize this technology on an outpatient basis.  According to MedlinePlus, the staff issues a gown at the beginning of the appointment.  The exam occurs while the patient is lying down on a table.

As soon as the individual is in the proper position, an ultrasound technician spreads a medical gel over the area to be tested.  This gels helps sound waves permeate body tissues.

As the test progresses, a technician or a physician might request the patient to move into a variety of positions.  Until such a request occurs, the patient needs to stay still on the table.

Images form as a wand called a transducer moves over the area being examined.  As the wand sends out sound waves, patients often describe a sound that resembles swishing.  Blood traveling through veins generates this sound.

Sound waves reflect from the patient’s body to a computer, where software turns them into images.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, a vein specialist might opt to also perform an ankle-brachial test, during which the staff places blood pressure cuffs on the patient’s arms and legs.

Most patients report no discomfort during a duplex ultrasound session.  Some note a bit of pressure as the transducer moves across targeted areas.  Doctors associate no risk with this type of exam.