When to Consider Intravascular Ultrasound

Nearly everyone knows ultrasound can be used to monitor the growth and development of an unborn baby. But did you know it can help diagnose and treat blood vessel problems, too? For decades, intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) has been used in people with coronary artery disease (CAD) — the most common type of heart disease — and it’s used in other types of vessel problems, too.

At Phoenix Heart, our team uses the most advanced intravascular ultrasound techniques to diagnose and treat atherosclerosis, clots, and other vessel problems in patients from Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, and Canyon City, Arizona. Here’s when you might need an intravascular ultrasound.

Intravascular ultrasound: The basics

Ultrasound uses special soundwaves to capture images from inside your body. Unlike X-rays and MRIs, ultrasound doesn’t use any radiation. Instead, the ultrasound device (or transducer) emits a steady stream of sound waves that “bounce off” your organs and tissues. These tiny echoes are captured by the ultrasound machine, which uses the echoes to create detailed images.

Many ultrasounds (including the ultrasounds used in pregnancy) use soundwaves that are transmitted through the skin. But sometimes, these waves can’t “reach” the areas that need to be evaluated. In those cases, other types of ultrasounds — like intravascular ultrasound — can be used.

Intravascular ultrasound uses a very thin, flexible tube called a catheter to carry an ultrasound probe inside your blood vessels. The catheter is inserted in a vein or artery, then slowly advanced to the area the doctor wants to evaluate. Once the probe is in place, it emits a stream of ultrasound waves that help capture both still and video images.

Intravascular ultrasound doesn’t require anesthesia. Instead, you receive sedation through an IV in your arm, and the area where the catheter is inserted is numbed using a local anesthetic, so you stay relaxed and comfortable.

When IVUS is used

IVUS is frequently used to evaluate the coronary arteries, the arteries that supply your heart with oxygen-rich blood. Sometimes, sticky plaques build up on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the opening so it’s harder for blood to reach the heart. When that happens, you may have chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and even a heart attack

Sometimes, IVUS is used in combination with other tests to determine if CAD might have caused a heart attack or might be causing chest pain (angina). In addition to diagnosing problems, IVUS is frequently used to treat vessel problems, using stents or other techniques to improve blood flow. Some IVUS techniques remove or filter clots, preventing them from reaching the heart or brain.

In addition to CAD, IVUS can be used to diagnose and treat:

IVUS can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of a specific treatment, enabling the doctor to decide if the treatment plan needs to be altered.

Maintain your blood vessel health

As a top-ranked cardiovascular practice in Arizona, Phoenix Heart is committed to providing patients with the individualized, patient-centered care they need to lead healthier lives. To learn more about IVUS and other techniques our team uses to diagnose and manage vessel-related medical issues, call the office or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.

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