Vascular scanning uses high frequency sound waves to produce pictures of your body's veins and arteries. It evaluates the blood flow in these blood vessels throughout your body.
A vascular scan, also known as doppler ultrasound, helps to identify blockages and narrowing in your arteries and veins, and detect blood clots. It can also find tumours and congenital vascular malformations, reduced or absent blood flow to your organs including your testes or ovary and increased blood flow that may be a sign of infection. It is non-invasive, safe and painless.
What are vascular scans?
Vascular scans are ultrasound scans that use sound waves to assess your body’s circulatory system. They evaluate the blood flow in your arteries and veins and help to identify artery and vein blockages and detect blood clots.
A vascular scan is sometimes called a doppler ultrasound scan.
Arteries or veins in your neck, arm, leg or abdomen are most commonly examined.
Why would I need a vascular ultrasound?
Doctors may request a vascular ultrasound to help diagnose and treat medical conditions.
Vascular ultrasound is performed to:
- check blood flow to organs and tissues throughout your body
- locate and identify any blockages (stenosis) and abnormalities such as plaque
- detect blood clots in major leg and arm veins, called deep venous thrombosis (DVT)
- decide if a patient is a good candidate for procedures such as angioplasty
- appraise varicose veins
- establish if you have an enlarged artery (aneurysm)
- assess the success of a procedure that grafts or bypasses blood vessels.
What is involved in a vascular screening?
A vascular screening is a check-up for your arteries and veins to see if you have vascular disease. Not all vascular conditions have symptoms, so it’s advisable to screen and check that your blood vessels are healthy. If a problem is found it can be treated early.
During a vascular screening, you will have a set of painless tests to check your blood vessels and see if they have any signs of disease.
You may have the following tests in your vascular screening:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound – you lie on your back whilst images and measurements of your abdominal aorta are taken using ultrasound. It checks for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). This is a weak, bulging spot in your largest abdominal artery. If an aneurysm is not treated, it can burst and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.
- Carotid artery ultrasound - you lie on your back and images of your carotid arteries are taken using ultrasound. It checks the arteries in your neck that carry blood to your brain and the rate of blood flow through them to see if they are narrowed. An untreated blocked carotid artery can cause a stroke.
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI) – compares the blood pressure of your ankle and the blood pressure of your arm. Lower blood pressure in your ankles suggests you may have peripheral artery disease (PAD). Untreated PAD can cause pain, difficulty walking, and serious damage that may lead to limb loss.
- Venous screening – examines your veins using ultrasound to check for blocked or clogged veins.
What does a vascular ultrasound consist of?
A vascular ultrasound uses a small probe, called a transducer. You lie on a bed or stand on a step depending on the exact test you are having. You may be asked to remain fairly still whilst the doppler ultrasound scan is performed.
Ultrasound gel is placed on your skin and the probe is passed across it with light pressure. High-frequency sound waves travel from the probe through the gel into your body. The probe collects the sounds as they bounce back and a computer uses them to create an image.
The images are captured in real-time. This means the scan shows the structure and movement of your body's organs and blood flowing through your blood vessels.
There are various types of vascular ultrasound scan that are used to check different areas of your body.
- Carotid artery scan – scans your neck arteries that feed the brain to check for stroke and mini stroke symptoms or to screen for early narrowing or blocked vessels. It takes up to 30 minutes.
- Lower limb arterial scan - an ultrasound of your leg arteries from your abdomen to your ankle. You may have this scan if you have pain in your legs when walking and to help detect acute ischemic disease (sudden blockages of the arteries) and aneurysms (bulge in your artery). It takes up to one hour.
- Lower limb venous scan - an ultrasound scan of your leg veins to look for deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in your vein, usually the leg) and varicose veins. It takes up to 45 minutes.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm scan – scans your main abdominal artery called the aorta. It tests for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (a bulge or swelling in your main blood vessel). It takes up to 30 minutes.
- Upper limb scan - checks for thrombosis (an acute blockage of your arm veins) or thoracic outlet syndrome (compression of your blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib called the thoracic outlet).
- Upper limb arterial scan – an ultrasound of your arm arteries. It is used to detect symptoms of ischemia (insufficient blood supply to a body organ) and thoracic outlet syndrome. It takes up to 45 minutes.
- Fistula assessment (pre and post dialysis) - scans to assess arm veins for dialysis patients and to monitor the access of fistula veins after they have been created for dialysis. It takes up to 45 minutes.
What are the costs of a vascular scanning?
The costs of a vascular scan will depend on the exact type of scan you have and your Ramsay hospital of choice.
We have a number of finance options if you are paying for your vascular scanning yourself. These include:
- Interest-free finance - no deposit required and the option to make monthly instalments at 0% interest.
- All-inclusive Total Care - a one-off payment at a pre-agreed price.
- Pay as you go – a flexible funding option if your costs are difficult to assess or you want to pay for your costs as and when they arise.
Vascular scanning is usually covered by most medical insurance policies, unless it is for cosmetic reasons. We advise that you obtain written confirmation from your insurance company before having your vascular scan.
What is the recovery process of a vascular scanning?
The vascular ultrasound scan should be painless and is generally non-invasive. This means you won’t need any recovery time. Once the scan is finished you can leave straight away. Most people return to their normal daily routine after a vascular scan examination.
Vascular scanning at Ramsay Health Care
Ramsay Health Care offers state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology including doppler ultrasound at our network of UK hospitals. Our expert teams use the latest facilities and a comprehensive range of vascular scans to assess and diagnose vascular conditions accurately. If treatment is needed, it can be arranged seamlessly within your local Ramsay hospital.
We conveniently offer vascular screening to check your arteries and veins for vascular diseases as well as vascular scanning to diagnose symptoms . Appointments are available at times to suit you