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Vascular Testing FAQ’s

Vascular disease affects your blood vessels, which include your arteries and veins that pump blood throughout your body. Vascular testing is ordered to get a closer look at your circulatory system and evaluate if you might have vascular disease. Vascular testing is a broad term used to describe the non-invasive inspection of any blood vessel outside of the ventricles of the heart and brain. Usually ultrasound technology is used to evaluate the blood flow in the body; however, there are several different types of vascular tests. Here are some frequently asked questions about commonly administered vascular tests.

What Are Some Vascular Tests My Doctor Might Order?

Depending on your symptoms and risks, your doctor may order multiple tests. Some of the most common tests include:

  • Carotid Artery Ultrasound – This test examines the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain and looks for an unstable or dangerous plaque in the neck that could lead to a stroke.
  • Leg Arterial Exam – This test looks at the arteries that go to the legs to make sure there are no blockages in the arteries.
  • Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) – By measuring the blood pressure in the arms vs. the legs, your doctor checks to see if there is a lack of blood circulation to the legs or feet.
  • Abdominal Aortic Ultrasound – This vascular test looks at the aorta through the stomach to make sure there is no aneurysm.
  • Renal Artery Duplex Scan – This scan examines the arteries in the kidneys to make sure there is no blockage, which could result in high blood pressure.
  • Deep Venous Ultrasound (DVT) – This ultrasound looks at the veins in the legs to rule out the presence of blood clots.

What Do Vascular Tests Have in Common?

In all cases, vascular testing exists to evaluate the body’s blood flow. Knowing about blockages ahead of time can help doctors find potential sources for stroke and correct them before a stroke or other serious problem occurs.

How Soon Will I Get the Results of My Vascular Test?

If there is a problem, the tech will alert the doctor immediately.  Typically, a nurse communicates routine findings a few days later via the secure patient portal, phone, or postal mail.

Why Can’t I Eat or Drink Before a Kidney or Abdominal Vascular Test?

Eating and drinking causes gas to form in the bowels. When you eat or drink even a little bit, the gas that builds up can make the ultrasound harder to perform, and in some cases the tech cannot perform the test at all. 

What Should I Know Before a Carotid Artery Ultrasound?

Because the tech needs access to your neck during a carotid artery ultrasound, avoid high collars, neckties, jewelry and turtlenecks. A low collar shirt, like a t-shirt, is preferred.

What Should I Know Before an ABI?

An ABI requires the patient to take off their shoes and socks, so wear shoes and socks that are easy to remove. Also, the tech will have to take a blood pressure reading, so it is best to avoid bulky sweaters.

What Should I Know Before a DVT?

The DVT exam looks at all the veins in the leg, from groin to ankle, so patients must be prepared to take off their pants.

How Long Does a Vascular Test Take?

The length of a vascular exam depends on how easily the patient is imaged, but the standard is anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour.

Important Points To Consider

It’s important to note that just because the technologist has a harder time seeing your veins and/or arteries during a  vascular test it does not mean that you are sick or have a problem. Each person’s body will show up a little differently. You also should be aware NOT to skip any medications before your vascular tests. Be sure to drink as little water as possible with any pills, but do not delay your medication administration for the test.

Will My Vascular Test Be Performed in a Hospital?

At Virginia Cardiac Specialists, in-house testing is offered at a majority of our offices. The raw data is calculated by VCS standards, so our cardiologists have immediate access to data collected by imaging equipment calibrated to our established standards. This way, the potential differences in standards from an outside testing center or hospital can’t alter a diagnosis.

Concerned about your vascular health? Make an appointment with one of our physicians today to see if a vascular test is right for you.

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Published June 14, 2019

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