Taking Care of Your Hearts

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Diagnosis and Intervention

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography, is a painless, fast and easy method of using high frequency sound waves to “see” inside the human body.  The sound waves are recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image and involve no ionizing radiation.  Doppler ultrasound is a special technique that is also used and evaluates blood flow through a blood vessel.  It is used to help detect blockages to blood flow caused by clots and build up of plaque.


What should I expect during an examination?

During an ultrasound examination, the patient is asked to lie on their back on an examining table.  The technologist will apply a clear, water-based ultrasound gel to the area being examined.  The technologist will then press a transducer, a small microphone like device, firmly against the patient’s body, moving it back and forth in the area of interest until the desired images are captured.  There is usually no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.  The patient will hear unusual sounds as the technologist views and records the blood flowing through the veins and arteries.  For the lower extremity arterial ultrasound and Doppler, blood pressure readings will be taken from the patient’s arms and ankles.  Once the imaging is complete, the gel is wiped off of the patient’s skin.  After an ultrasound examination, the patient should be able to resume normal activities immediately.


How should I prepare for the examination?

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam.  You may need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area that is to be examined and you may also be asked to wear a gown during the exam.


What kind of ultrasound exams do we perform?

The vascular ultrasounds that we perform are as follows: carotid ultrasound, lower extremity arterial ultrasound, lower extremity arterial doppler, upper extremity arterial ultrasound, lower extremity venous ultrasound, and upper extremity venous ultrasound.


How long will the exam take?

The carotid ultrasound will take approximately 20 minutes.  The upper and lower extremity ultrasounds will usually take between 30 and 45 minutes each.