Vascular Ultrasound

Houston Methodist performs state-of-the-art, non-invasive ultrasound examinations to diagnose vascular conditions. Physicians use examination results to plan treatments and monitor the progress of patients with vascular conditions.

Diagnosis of vascular disorders such as aneurysms, atherosclerosis (artery hardening) and chronic venous insufficiency (inability of veins to pump enough blood back to the heart) requires specialized vascular testing. Our highly trained sonographers and doctors perform a range of advanced diagnostic ultrasound services and develop new techniques and advancements.

Vascular ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of patients’ veins and arteries. Doppler detects moving red blood cells to measure speed and blood flow direction. Tests include:
  • Transcranial Doppler (TCD) -- combines ultrasound and Doppler technologies to measure blood flow through the brain by bouncing sound waves off the brain’s blood vessels. The test allows physicians to detect and assess blood vessel narrowing (stenosis), thrombosis (a blood clot), embolism (an obstruction), ruptures and ischemia (lack of sufficient blood flow). Physicians monitor blood flow through stroke patients’ brains using TCD. Cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, neurologists, neurosurgeons and general practitioners use the test to diagnose patients, determine treatments and improve patient outcomes.
  • Carotid ultrasound -- combines ultrasound and Doppler technologies to test blood flow through the carotid arteries, which are in the neck and carry blood to the brain. The test measures narrowing of the carotid arteries, which may lead to stroke. It may be repeated to measure carotid stenosis progression. Combined CD and TCD testing measure blood flowing to the brain and blood flow within the brain.
  • Venous duplex exam -- an upper and lower extremity large vein ultrasound scan, detects deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is potentially life-threatening, and venous incompetence or insufficiency, a condition that develops after vein walls become weakened and heart valves are damaged. Veins fill with blood, especially as you stand.
  • Arterial duplex exam -- an upper and lower extremity ultrasound exam, detects stenosis or artery blockages. This procedure involves high frequency sound waves to detect blockages and abnormal blood flow, allowing physicians to plan medical and surgical treatments. 
  • Arterial physiologic Doppler exam -- combines Doppler technology and blood pressure measurements to test vascular blood flow in each extremity. A device emits high-frequency sound waves, and multiple readings are taken to develop a picture of bodily blood flow. 
  • Abdominal and aortic duplex exam -- uses Doppler technology to measure the aorta’s diameter and assess blood flow to detect and monitor potentially life-threatening aortic aneurysms. This exam also is performed after aortic endograft repair, as well as to study the renal and mesenteric arteries, which supply blood to the large and small intestines.

Specific duplex exams are performed to assess function of arteriovenous dialysis fistulas and grafts, which are surgically created to improve vascular access for dialysis patients. 

Vascular screening is performed to detect vascular disease before stroke or death from an aneurysm rupture. It is for people without symptoms, but categorized as high-risk because of a history of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol or diagnosed cardiovascular disease.


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