Peripheral Vascular Disease Testing
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) occurs when peripheral blood vessels—part of the network of arteries in the vascular system that transport blood from the heart throughout the body—become blocked, hardened and narrowed. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, increases a person's chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
PVD most often affects the legs, but can also occur in the arteries leading to the arms, head or internal organs. Common symptoms are leg pain that occurs when exercising and ceases during rest; numbness, coldness, change of color or loss of hair in the legs or feet; muscle pain in the thighs or lower; paleness, blueness or weak or absent pulse in a limb; and an abnormal change in the way you walk.
How is PVD diagnosed?
Various instruments and tests can detect the presence of vascular disease. These include blood pressure cuffs, Doppler and intravascular ultrasound, angiogram, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), plethysmogram and venogram. But an arterial Doppler is most often performed to evaluate blood flow in patients complaining of leg or arm pain, numbness, tingling and fatigue, as these symptoms may be indicative of a narrowing or blockage of the arteries. Doppler technology uses sound waves to detect blood flow and identify any differences in blood pressure within various areas of the arms and legs.
During the arterial Doppler procedure, blood pressure is taken with a cuff at several points along the arms and legs, and a transducer is moved across the area to detect blood flow before and after the blood pressure cuff is inflated. Patients may experience mild cramping as the cuff cuts off circulation in the targeted area. This procedure usually takes about 45 minutes to perform, and patients can return to their regular activities immediately after.
After diagnosis, in order to determine the best method of treatment, examinations will be necessary. The evaluation may include CT scans, X-rays or ultrasound to further evaluate the situation.
Lower Extremity Arterial & Venous Ultrasound
Vascular disease is a serious condition that involves abnormal functioning within the veins of the legs, which can lead to complications such as aneurysm and stroke. A venous ultrasound provides diagnostic images of the vessels within the lower extremities, most commonly used to diagnose peripheral vascular disease. This procedure can identify narrowed or blocked arteries or veins and is essential in achieving successful vein treatment.
Many patients may experience significant vein reflux that can only be detected through ultrasound imaging. A venous ultrasound can show a thorough, detailed image of the veins, along with the direction of blood flow to help accurately diagnose vascular conditions. In addition to its diagnostic purpose, venous ultrasound can also be used to place a needle or catheter in a vein and plan the removal of narrowed or blocked veins.
Once the results have been analyzed, your doctor will determine a personalized treatment plan to relieve swelling, pain and other symptoms, and to relieve any blockages within the legs to ensure proper blood flow.
Ultrasound is a primary diagnostic and visualization tool because of its convenience, safety and effectiveness. Ultrasound produces images of internal structures through the use of high-frequency sound waves, whose echoes are used to create moving and still images.
This visualization allows the doctor to target the location and precise nature of the problem area. Additionally, all image recording happens in real time as soon as the machine is turned on and placed on the body. There is no wait for any sort of picture development needed for X-rays and other imaging procedures.
How It Works
The ultrasound procedure begins with the patient lying down on the examination table as a water-based gel is applied to the area on their body that will be observed. This gel allows consistent contact between the body and the transducer, free of any air pockets that could get in the way. The transducer is kept firmly against the skin and is moved back and forth across the area to allow for the most detailed observation possible. The whole procedure usually takes 30 minutes.
There is no discomfort associated with this procedure, although if the part of your body being observed has already been tender there may be some slight pressure against it. If a Doppler type ultrasound is used, you may actually hear the pulses of the device. There is no clinical risk inherent in ultrasonography as it uses no invasive methods or ionizing radiation and does not cause any health problems.
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