Frequently Asked Questions

Vascular ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves to examine the blood vessels in order to determine if there are areas of dilatation, narrowing or blockage. The vessels most frequently examined are in the neck, arms and legs, including both arteries and veins.
  • Getting ready for an ultrasound requires little effort. You will be asked to remove clothing that covers your arms and legs, depending on the exam. You may be asked to remove your shoes and socks as well. A gown may be provided or you may bring shorts to wear.
  • A patient with wounds/ulcers may need to remove bandages for the exam.
  • If abdominal vessels, such as aorta, iliac, or renal arteries are being imaged, the patient will need to fast for 6-8 hours. If you are diabetic, you may have a piece of toast. You may drink water and take all of your medications.
  • For a Carotid ultrasound you will lie down on your back during the procedure. The sonographer may gently adjust the position of your head to improve access to the side of your neck. A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area of be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes. You should not feel any discomfort during the procedure. If you do, tell the sonographer.
  • Lower Extremity Venous ultrasound is typically performed if a clot in the vein or Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is suspected. The veins in the legs are compressed and the blood flow is assessed to make sure the vein is not clogged. This test is also used to look for chronic venous insufficiency or leaky valves in the veins which may cause swelling or edema. The patient may experience discomfort if the legs are sensitive to pressure.
  • Lower Extremity Arterial ultrasound may be performed in patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). You will lie down on the exam table. Pressure cuffs will be wrapped snuggly around your arms, above knees, calves, and ankles. The sonographer will inflate the cuffs, and sensors in the machine will record the pulse waves that correspond to each beat of your heart. Blood pressures will be recorded at your arms and ankles also. The ankle/brachial index (ABI) is determined by the ratio between these pressures. You may be asked to perform toe-ups or to walk slowly on a treadmill until symptoms are induced. After exercise, you will lie down on the exam table and repeat the arm and ankle tests.
  • During an Abdominal ultrasound you lie on your back on an exam table. A small amount of gel is applied to your abdomen. The sonographer presses the transducer against your skin over your abdomen, moving from one area to another. You may feel slight discomfort when pressure is applied over certain areas of your abdomen.

* If you think you cannot tolerate lying flat on the exam table for the test or are unable to transfer to our exam table, please let us know.

The gel will be wiped off your skin. There are no special instructions to follow after the test. You may go home or to your other scheduled appointments after the vascular ultrasound.
Ultrasound examinations are effective and safe. These sophisticated tests are painless and document the presence, location, and severity of arterial and venous vascular disease. In addition, the non-invasive nature of the exam greatly reduces patient risk and enhances patient comfort when compared to invasive diagnostic procedures.
A radiologist or physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you. In some cases the physician may discuss preliminary results with you at the conclusion of your examination.
The average vascular evaluation takes approximately 45 minutes. However, the exact time can vary based on the type of exam.
Ultrasonic gel is usually composed of propylene glycol and water. The risk of having an allergic reaction to the gel is possible but is relatively low. If you know you have an allergy to ultrasound gel, please let your sonographer know.

We want to make sure you have the information you need to help you prepare for and understand the test you will receive. If you have questions not answered here, please feel free to call us at Phone: 415.671.6819 x1182 or Email: or contact your health care provider.