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Mesenteric Duplex Ultrasound 

Mesenteric duplex ultrasound can help a physician detect reduced blood flow in the arteries that supply the intestines. 

Mesenteric duplex ultrasound is an imaging technique that can help a physician identify a narrowing or obstruction in the mesenteric arteries. This condition, which is known as mesenteric artery occlusive disease, could result in a critical reduction in the supply of blood to the stomach, intestines, colon, liver and spleen, depriving those vital organs of essential oxygen. The test may examine three major mesenteric arterial branches: the celiac, superior mesenteric and inferior mesenteric arteries. 

Duplex ultrasound incorporates a combination of: 

  • Doppler ultrasound - Generates high-frequency sound waves that bounce off moving blood cells, allowing a physician to measure the speed and direction of blood flow (the movement of blood causes a Doppler effect, which is a change in the pitch of the reflected sound waves) 
  • B (brightness) mode ultrasound – Creates two-dimensional images composed of a series of dots; the brightness of each dot corresponds to the amplitude of an echoed sound wave that bounced off the solid tissue being examined 

Conditions Diagnosed 

A physician may order a mesenteric artery duplex ultrasound test for a patient who is experiencing symptoms of mesenteric artery occlusive disease, such as unintended weight loss and abdominal pain and cramping immediately after eating. The condition can result from a blood clot or arteriosclerosis, a buildup of cholesterol plaque on the arterial walls. 

Procedure Details 

Because the blood vessels examined during a mesenteric duplex ultrasound test are located deep within the abdomen near the spine, the patient must fast for 6-8 hours beforehand to help ensure the best possible image quality. Swallowed food and gas in the digestive tract can obscure the technician’s view of the mesenteric arteries. 

During a mesenteric duplex ultrasound exam, the patient lies face-up on an examination table. After applying a clear ultrasound gel to the patient’s abdomen, a technician will gently glide an ultrasound transducer over the gel at various angles, causing it to send sound waves in different directions. As the sound waves bounce off moving blood cells, the transducer will recapture them. The resulting images will be displayed on a nearby computer screen. 

What to Expect 

While undergoing a mesenteric duplex ultrasound exam, some patients experience slight discomfort from the pressure of the transducer. However, the test is not painful, nor does it have side effects or complications. Usually, a patient can return to his or her daily routine immediately afterward. 

Effectiveness 

A fasting mesenteric duplex ultrasound scan can help a physician detect arterial narrowing and blockages with a high level of accuracy. Studies confirm that it is an effective diagnostic tool for the early evaluation of patients with suspected mesenteric artery occlusive disease.  

The team in Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute is skilled and experienced in utilizing the latest diagnostic tools, such as mesenteric duplex ultrasound, to help our patients achieve the best possible outcomes and quality of life.