Duplex Ultrasound vs. Traditional Ultrasound?

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duplex ultrasound

Up to 30% of adults in the United States suffer from varicose veins, which can be a sign of vein disease.  Among people over 50 years of age, one study found that 21% of men and 12% of women had chronic venous insufficiency, in which weakened veins cause pooling of blood in the extremities.  Tampa vein treatment experts believe that careful assessment and diagnosis is essential for treatment and prevention of serious vein problems.  Using ultrasound imaging, particularly a special type of ultrasound called duplex ultrasound, significantly increases the accuracy of vein disease diagnosis.


How Does Duplex Ultrasound Work?

A traditional ultrasound capitalizes on the properties of sound waves to image tissue.  Sound waves can penetrate the skin, bouncing off blood vessels to create images of affected veins.  This type of ultrasound can yield images of blood clots or blockages in veins, but it is only able to provide static images of blood vessels.


In contrast, duplex ultrasound combines traditional ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound.  Doppler ultrasound transducers bounce sound waves into tissue, just like traditional ultrasound.  These sound waves bounce off blood cells, causing a change in the pitch of the sound wave.  This is like the Doppler effect you hear when the pitch of a train changes as it comes near and then passes you.  In areas with no blood flow, the pitch of the sound waves doesn’t change.  A special computer receives these sound waves and processes them to create images of blood flow through the vessels.


Added Benefits of Using Duplex Ultrasound for Diagnosing Vein Disease

The primary benefit of duplex ultrasound is that it provides traditional images of vessel walls and surrounding tissues as well as information about blood flow through the veins.  The computer converts the Doppler information into a graph that depicts the speed and direction of blood flow within a blood vessel.  This allows vascular surgeons to diagnose common vein problems, including varicose veins, venous insufficiency, and other forms of vascular disease.


What to Expect from a Duplex Ultrasound Appointment

From a patient perspective, duplex ultrasound is not much different than a traditional ultrasound.  The ultrasound technician will apply a gel to the area being studied, which allows the sound waves to better penetrate the skin.  Then, the Tampa vein clinic technician will move a small wand over the area.  You might hear a swishing sound, which is the sound of your blood passing through the affected vein.  Let your Florida vein doctor know if you are on blood thinner medications, which may affect the interpretation of the Doppler ultrasound.


If you’ve been bothered by varicose veins or suspect you have vein disease, contact our Florida vein clinic today to ask if duplex ultrasound is right for you.