Bilateral Arterial Ultrasound

An ultrasound exam uses high-frequency sound waves to measure the amount of blood flowing through your arteries and veins, specifically examining the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. Ultrasounds are non-invasive procedures that can be used to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, such as blood clots, blockages, venous insufficiency, arterial occlusion (closing), abnormalities in arterial blood flow, blocked artificial bypass grafts, or damage to the arteries. "Bilateral" means that this procedure scans both sides of the body - whereas uni-lateral ultrasounds scan only one.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a standard or Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasounds use changes in the frequencies of sound waves to measure the speed and direction of blood flow through blood vessels. Because ultrasounds can show images in real-time, Doppler ultrasounds have taken the place of X-ray angiography as the main method of measuring blood flow through arteries. Regular ultrasounds can show blood vessels and organs in the body, but cannot measure blood flow through arterial channels.

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A venous ultrasound produces images of the veins and low-oxygen blood flow back to the heart. This imaging is usually done in the upper or lower extremities (arms and legs). Arterial ultrasounds produce images of oxygen-rich blood flow from the heart - through arterial structures - into the arms and legs.

A Doppler ultrasound shows the flow of blood through the veins and arteries. Arterial Doppler ultrasounds may be used to detect a variety of ailments such as:

- Aneurysm: A gorged part of the heart muscle or the aorta (the body's main artery).

- Carotid artery stenosis: A narrowing of the arteries on either side of the neck.

- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): A serious condition in which a blood clot forms in a vein that is deep inside your body.

- Chronic venous insufficiency: Occurs when the venous wall and/or the valves in the leg veins don't work sufficiently, making it hard for the blood to return to the heart.

- Varicose veins: A venous insufficiency caused by weak or damaged vein walls or valves causing blood pressure to increase inside your veins.

- Atherosclerosis: A buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances (collectively known as plaque) in your arteries. This plaque can cause your arteries to narrow and block blood flow. The plaque can also burst, leading to a blood clot.

- Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease): A common problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. This causes your limbs (usually the lower limbs) to not receive enough blood flow. One of the main symptoms of this is leg pain when walking (known as claudication).

- Heart valve defects and congenital heart disease.

An arterial ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure done with painless sound waves. The test will usually be done in the radiology department of a hospital, doctor's office, or a peripheral vascular laboratory.

You'll need to remove any clothing, jewelry, or any other objects in the area being scanned and lie down on the examination table. Your doctor will use a hand-held device known as a transducer, which directs high-frequency sound waves into the arteries or veins being studied. They may place blood pressure cuffs around various parts of the body to help examine the arteries. The transducer sends sound waves through your tissues to the blood vessels. As the sound waves echo off your blood vessels, the transducer sends data to a computer that interprets the waves and creates images.

Ultrasounds provide real-time imaging of blood flow and organs in the body. Because they are not as detailed as an X-ray or CT scan, they are rarely used to screen for cancer. Ultrasounds can show cancers and abnormal growths in the body but are unable to determine whether or not tumors are cancerous. If your doctor suspects you may have cancerous growth in that area of the body, you may be asked to undergo further testing.

Ultrasounds are totally safe and extremely accurate. Your doctor can provide medical advice as to whether or not ultrasound is the best type of imaging for you.

The primary difference between an arterial scan and a CT scan is the use of radiation to create medical imaging. Both arterial ultrasounds and CT scans are non-invasive imaging techniques that allow doctors to look inside the body without cutting it open. Arterial ultrasounds record sound waves pinging off organs and blood vessels in the body, while CT scans use ionizing radiation to produce internal images of the body. This means that you will be exposed to a very small amount of radiation during a CT scan. While this amount of radiation is generally safe for most adults, pregnant women and young children are rarely given CT scan tests because of the dangers of exposure.

As for the actual procedure, a CT scan takes less time than ultrasound but is usually more expensive. CT scans can cost anywhere from $1000-$3000 where an ultrasound costs between $100-$1000. A CT scan takes about 5 minutes to complete, with ultrasound scans taking about 10-15 minutes.

CT scans also provide more detailed imaging than ultrasounds. CT scans can show bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels in the same image. Ultrasound scans can show soft tissue and masses in the body, but further testing (like a Doppler ultrasound) may be needed for more details. Ultrasounds can detect growths, tumors, and cysts, but cannot determine whether or not these masses are cancerous. Because of this, a doctor may request a biopsy of an area if they suspect cancer cells may be present.

It depends on the condition and clinic. Most Doppler ultrasound tests take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Ultrasound scans display images in real-time, and test results may be available within an hour of the scan. During your scan, the sonographer or technologist can answer questions you may have about the procedure, but the ultrasound results must be reviewed by a radiologist before a diagnosis is made.

All this means that while you may get a pretty good sense of what you're looking at during your scan, you may have to wait for several hours or days before your doctor can formally report the ultrasound results to you.

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