Duplex ultrasound is an imaging technique that can help a physician detect blood vessel abnormalities, such as plaque buildup and blood clots.
Duplex ultrasound utilizes high-frequency sound waves that bounce off blood vessels to create images, allowing a physician to assess blood flow and vessel structure. The test incorporates two forms of ultrasound: Doppler and B-mode. Doppler ultrasound is used to measure the speed and determine the direction of blood flow. B-mode ultrasound is used to create two-dimensional images of the blood vessels.
The specific types of duplex ultrasound examinations include:
- Abdominal duplex ultrasound – Examines the arteries and veins in the abdomen
- Carotid duplex ultrasound – Examines the carotid arteries in the neck
- Mesenteric duplex ultrasound – Examines the arteries that supply blood to the digestive organs
- Peripheral duplex ultrasound – Examines the blood vessels in the extremities
- Renal duplex ultrasound – Examines the blood vessels in the kidneys
- Venous duplex ultrasound – Examines the veins in the legs
A physician may order a duplex ultrasound examination to investigate a suspected blood vessel condition, such as:
- An abdominal aortic aneurysm
- An arterial occlusion
- Carotid occlusive disease
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Peripheral artery disease
- Renal function after a kidney transplant
- Renal vascular disease
- Venous insufficiency
During a duplex ultrasound test, the patient lies on an examination table with his or her head slightly elevated. To enhance the transmission and reception of the ultrasound waves, a technician will apply a special gel to the area of the patient’s body being examined. Next, the technician will place an ultrasound transducer against the patient’s skin, gently moving it back and forth and applying slight pressure to capture the best possible images. The wand will transmit the images to a computer, which can be viewed on a screen in real time.
What to Expect
The pressure applied during a duplex ultrasound exam may cause some mild discomfort, but most patients do not find the test to be painful. Complications are rare, and most patients can resume their daily activities immediately afterward.
A duplex ultrasound scan can help a physician determine the width of blood vessels and detect blockages. This relatively simple imaging test is less invasive than an arteriogram or venogram.
The experienced team in Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute is pleased to offer our patients convenient access to specialty diagnostic procedures, such as duplex ultrasound testing.