A wide range of vascular disorders affect people throughout the world. Major vascular diseases include cerebrovascular diseases (CVD), peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and coronary artery disease (CAD). Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide. According to the world health organization (WHO), around 17.9 million deaths occur each year due to cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, along with cardiac diseases, vascular diseases are a significant cause of death globally. An early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent these deaths and improve the quality of life. Your physician will use a variety of techniques to diagnose a vascular condition.
Doppler ultrasound employs high-frequency sound waves to study the blood flow in the blood vessels. These sound waves reflect from the moving objects, such as flowing blood, and the reflected sound waves are recorded to measure the amount and other characteristics of blood flow. This process allows the clinicians to assess the level of blockage in different blood vessels like the vessels in the arms and legs. This ultrasound is also used to evaluate blood flow in the blood vessels supplying the abdominal organs.
A doctor may also use a traditional ultrasound to diagnose vascular conditions. Unlike Doppler ultrasound, sound waves are reflected from static objects, such as vessel walls and plaques, to give information about the blockage in the blood vessels. It can also help diagnose pathologies in the vessel walls. For example, this ultrasound is helpful to analyze the dilatation of the abdominal aorta, the biggest artery in the body. This condition is called an aortic aneurysm.
Duplex ultrasound combines the principles of Doppler ultrasound and traditional ultrasound. High-frequency sound waves allow us to visualize the vessel walls and evaluate the blood flow through the blood vessels. This type of ultrasound is performed for carotid and vertebral arteries especially. It is also used in vein mapping to choose a vein for bypass grafting.
Angiography visualizes different blood vessels using a dye. Coronary angiography is considered a gold standard in diagnosing coronary artery disease (CAD).
In this procedure, a dye is injected into the blood vessels using a catheter introduced through a small incision in the blood vessel. After that, a series of X-ray images are taken. Due to the injected dye, the physician can clearly see the blockage within a blood vessel.
Ankle-Brachial Pressure Index (ABPI)
ABPI is a clinical test performed to diagnose peripheral arterial disease (PAD). It involves measuring the blood pressure in the upper arm and ankle. The ratio between the ankle and upper arm blood pressure is known as the ankle-brachial pressure index (ABPI). Normal ABPI is between 1.0 – 1.3. A value lower than 1 indicates peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
In order to give a complete diagnosis, your doctor may perform several exams. Always speak to your physician about any concerns.