When hearing the word ultrasound, many people automatically jump to women and pregnancy. But ultrasound is used in many other ways to provide critical information to physicians and surgeons who perform lifesaving treatment!
Ultrasound has many uses including helping the physician see and evaluate narrowing of vessels, blockages to blood flow (like an obstruction in the artery), or less than normal or absent blood flow to organs. It’s used by the registered vascular technologists at University Surgical to locate the exact site of blockages in a person’s arteries – whether that’s in their legs, neck or abdomen. Pinpointing the problem precisely helps USA surgeons plan the most effective surgery possible to address the area of concern.
“Ultrasounds is particularly useful for diagnosing problems with arteries. If someone has blockages in their legs (either mildly or severely reduced blood flow), they are losing a degree of normal blood supply to those extremities,” says Bettina McAlister, RVT, Technical Director of Vascular Diagnostic Services at University Surgical. “The blockages can cause troublesome health conditions like sores and ulcers that don’t heal easily and claudication, a condition that causes pain with walking that goes away when the person is at rest.”
Ultrasound imaging sends high-frequency sound waves into the body and then listens for the returning echoes from inside the body. It’s similar to sonar technology used by submarines and boats. The returning echoes produce pictures that help diagnose the causes of pain, swelling and infection. It’s also used by other specialists to diagnose heart conditions and guide physicians during a biopsy. Ultrasound is noninvasive, safe, and it minimizes the amount of dye used later if an arteriogram is needed to look even closer at the location of a blockage. What’s more, having an ultrasound is virtually painless.
“The vascular technologist uses a warm gel that helps the sound waves best flow through the body and the ultrasound probe to apply light pressure on a person’s legs, neck or abdomen. The image is immediately visible on a video display screen that looks like a computer or television,” McAlister says. “The only time there’s discomfort is when we need to press deeper on the stomach to see an abdominal artery more clearly. That’s why we ask people to refrain from eating just prior to their exam.”
Specialized Training Matters
“To receive certification, vascular techs must successfully complete a registry exam on sonography physics, the instruments used to perform the test, and a specialized vascular technology exam. Vascular techs are eligible to seek this credential, recognized throughout the United States, when they complete a two years of pre-requisite courses and are accepted and complete a comprehensive and approved two-year training program. This program includes a dedicated year of hands on clinical experience,” McAlister says. “Every vascular technician at University Surgical is registered, meaning they received a designation from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. And many have five to 10 years of experience. Our patients can have confidence they are receiving the highest quality care by professionals who have the training and experience to be experts in their field.”