Houston Methodist’s cardiologists use a variety of ultrasound types to diagnose a wide range of heart and vascular conditions, including abnormal blood flow, blood clots, aneurysms, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and chronic venous insufficiency. These advanced imaging technologies enable physicians to view the smallest details in blood flow and function of the vascular system using high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your veins and arteries.
The Ultrasound Procedure
To begin the procedure, a technician will assist in positioning you on an examination table. A water-based gel is then applied to the area being examined. The technician will place the transducer (a wand that transmits ultrasound waves) firmly against your body and move it over the area for imaging.
Some types of ultrasounds may require the insertion of a catheter through which a dye is injected in order to obtain images from inside your body.
If a Doppler ultrasound is being performed, you may occasionally hear whooshing sounds as it measures your blood flow. Most ultrasounds take less than 30 minutes. After the exam, you will be able to resume normal activities immediately.
Your doctor will analyze the images and then share the results with you.
Ultrasound Diagnostic Technologies
Various ultrasound diagnostic techniques are used to screen and monitor specific cardiovascular conditions. Your doctor and care team will determine the most appropriate diagnostic ultrasound test for your condition.
Arteriography and venography are used to diagnose abnormalities in blood flow resulting from diseases of the circulatory system. Dye is injected into the patient's bloodstream so abnormalities in blood flow can be visualized by X-ray-based imaging techniques. For real-time images, dye is injected during some catheter-based procedures, such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or angioplasty, for visualizing blockages and treatment results.
Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is a medical imaging methodology using a specially designed catheter with a miniaturized ultrasound probe. It uses ultrasound technology to see from inside blood vessels out through the surrounding blood column, visualizing the inner wall (endothelium) of blood vessels.
Carotid arteries are the main conduits for blood flow to the brain. Stenosis (narrowing due to plaque) results in restricted blood flow, which may not show symptoms until a major cerebrovascular event occurs, such as a stroke. This non-invasive procedure uses high-frequency sound waves to detect blockages and abnormal blood flow, allowing physicians to plan the appropriate medical and surgical treatments.
Venous Duplex Exam:
This combination of upper- and lower-extremity ultrasound scans large veins to detect blood clots or stenosis (narrowing). It can detect deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is potentially life threatening, and venous incompetence or insufficiency.
Arterial Doppler Exam:
Poor circulation or hands and feet feeling cold are some of the common symptoms of reduced blood flow to the extremities. This non-invasive exam uses Doppler technology to test the rate of vascular blood flow in each extremity. A transducer emits high-frequency sound waves, and multiple readings are taken to develop a composite picture of bodily blood flow.
Abdominal and Aortic Duplex Exam:
This imaging exam measures the diameter of the aorta and blood flow, which can detect and monitor the growth of potentially life-threatening aortic aneurysms. This exam is also performed after endograft repair, as well as to study the renal and mesenteric arteries. Duplex exams are also used to assess the function of arteriovenous dialysis fistulas and grafts.
Transcranial Imaging Center:
Transcranial Doppler (TCD) is an innovative combination of ultrasound and Doppler technologies used to detect blood flow within cranial blood vessels and identify conditions, such as stenosis (narrowing), thrombosis (clots), embolisms, ruptures and ischemia (lack of sufficient blood flow). It is also used to observe cranial blood flow in stroke patients.
Houston Methodist’s advanced facilities perform non-invasive ultrasound examinations to diagnose vascular conditions. This information is used to plan treatments and monitor the long-term progress of patients with vascular conditions.
Houston Methodist provides cardiac ultrasounds at the following convenient locations: