What’s A Duplex Ultrasound?

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Unlike Superman, who could use his X-ray vision, modern medicine depends on technology to see inside the human body. One of the tools health professionals use is the duplex ultrasound. You may also hear this test called a Doppler test duplex exam, duplex scan, peripheral vascular ultrasound, ultrasound, ultrasound exam, vascular lab test or vascular ultrasound. Of these, the term peripheral vascular ultrasound probably describes it the best and is the most accurate. Here’s some basic information on the duplex ultrasound from Dr. Gamal Wazni, of United Vein Centers in Tampa, Florida.

What is a Duplex Ultrasound?

Traditional ultrasound was developed as an offshoot of the radar technology used by planes and sea-going vessels. Sound waves are bounced off the structures in the body to create pictures of organs and blood vessels. The duplex ultrasound (duplex means having two parts) adds the ability to bounce sound waves off moving objects, like the blood circulating through the veins. That’s why peripheral vascular ultrasound is such an accurate term; the veins are part of the peripheral vascular system. The result is a recording that allows the test to indicate the speed and force of the blood flow.

What is Duplex Ultrasound Used For?

The ability to look at blood flow in real time is the key to a duplex ultrasound’s value. An ultrasound is an in-office procedure that is not invasive like an arteriogram and there is no risk of bleeding. Ultrasounds can be used to examine most parts of the body and can show what the blood flow looks like in the legs, kidneys, abdomen and other areas. An ultrasound can show if there’s a blood clot or blood vessel disease in a vein. Your vein doctor might recommend a duplex ultrasound to evaluate varicose veins or to see if you have a condition called venous insufficiency.

What’s the Procedure Like?

A duplex ultrasound is performed in the doctor’s office or a vein clinic. It should always be performed by a credentialed technician. In most cases, the test takes about 30 minutes. First the technician spreads a special gel over the area under examination. The gel is used to help transmit the sound waves. The technician slowly moves a wand or hand-piece over the area. The wand transmits the sound waves through the tissue and is connected to a computer that receives the readings and converts them into pictures. As the blood moves through the arteries, it is transmitted through the system as a swishing noise. During the test, you’ll usually be asked to hold still or even hold your breath for a minute. As soon as the test is finished, you can go about your usual activities – there is no recovery time and no side effects or complications.

The technician sends the results directly to your doctor, who can discuss them with you immediately. Depending on the findings, your doctor will make recommendations for future care. If you have questions or want to schedule a vascular disease assessment, please contact us.