For many people, varicose veins erode self-confidence.  These bulging blood vessels typically have a raised, ropelike appearance.  They are usually red or blue but can also have a flesh tone.  Untreated, they sometimes cause medical complications.  One of the important tools a vein center uses to diagnose them is duplex ultrasound.

What is Duplex Ultrasound?

The Office on Women’s Health reports that half of Americans who are at least 50 develop varicose veins.  While some are obvious to the eye, others lie deeper in a patient’s leg.  In order to map leg veins, Houston vein doctors sometimes rely on duplex ultrasound before recommending the best type of varicose vein treatment.  This ultrasound exam allows physicians to examine blood flow in leg veins and check for blood clots, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says.

According to MedlinePlus, this technology combines two types of ultrasound:

  • Traditional creates images by using sound waves bouncing off vessels.
  • Doppler measures the speed of blood and how objects flow by recording sound waves reflected off moving entities like blood.

This test can determine how wide a blood vessel is and reveal complications of varicose veins such as blockages.  Duplex ultrasound is also useful to visualize blood movement in the abdomen, neck, arms, and kidneys.

What to Expect at a Houston Vein Clinic

Doctors perform duplex ultrasound as an outpatient exam at a vein center prior to Houston vein treatment.  When performed to map varicose veins in the legs, the procedure typically requires no preparation before the appointment.  If the physician is also looking at a patient’s arteries, results might be altered if the individual is a smoker, since nicotine constricts arteries.

Upon arrival at the clinic, a patient receives a medical gown.  Once the individual is lying down, a technician spreads a special gel across the area being evaluated.  This gel makes it easier for sound waves to permeate tissues.

During the exam, the staff might ask individuals to assume various positions.  Patients need to remain still until directed to move.

The individual conducting the exam uses a wand known as a transducer to create images.  As the examiner moves the transducer over the targeted area, it emits sound waves.   During the exam, the patient will hear a sound, often described as swishing, which is the sound of blood moving through vessels.

A computer takes measurements of sound waves reflecting back from the body and converts them into images.  In some cases, the physician might opt to perform additional testing to determine an ankle-brachial index.  This requires using blood pressure cuffs on legs and arms.

Physicians associate no risk with this procedure.  During most of a duplex ultrasound exam, patients report feeling no discomfort.  They typically experience some pressure as the examiner moves the transducer across the body.