Before recommending a treatment plan for a patient with spider or varicose veins, a physician needs an accurate picture of the extent of the problem. The use of vascular ultrasound at a vein clinic is extremely important in evaluating the exact condition of an individual with symptoms of vein disease.
This technology utilizes sound waves to examine and map the circulatory system. According to the Radiological Society of North America, Inc., vascular ultrasound creates pictures of the internal parts of veins and arteries and measures blood flow. Other names for this technology are ultrasound scanning and sonography. This noninvasive exam is an outpatient procedure usually ordered by a clinic that treats patients with vein disease. The individual performing the test scans the targeted area, upon which a special gel has been placed, with a wand known as a transducer. The wand picks up sounds that bounce back to it and transmits them to a computer that uses them to create images for physician review. Patients experience no exposure to radiation. Since the end result is real-time images, doctors are able to visualize precisely how blood flows through vessels. The primary uses of vascular ultrasound include:
Physicians often recommend a Doppler vascular ultrasound to determine whether an individual suffers from venous reflux. The Mayo Clinic notes that it is particularly useful in diagnosing poorly functioning vein valves in the legs that can result in venous insufficiency, spider veins, and varicose veins. Doppler technology estimates the speed of blood flow by taking measurements of the rate of alternation in pitch, or sound wave frequency. This test is sometimes an alternative to more complex vascular exams. Doctors also use it to check for injuries to blood vessels and to monitor vein treatment progress.
Vascular ultrasound is also an extremely useful tool during certain treatments for vein disease. Physicians often use it in conjunction with sclerotherapy, the so-called gold standard for treating spider veins. This outpatient procedure is also sometimes useful for small varicose veins. The treatment involves injecting a special liquid or foam known as a sclerosant into a targeted vessel. The injected sclerosant irritates and damages the wall of the abnormal vein, forcing it to close and eventually disappear, according to Wake Forest® Baptist Health. Directly administering injections is most effective when used on targeted vessels with a diameter of less than 5 mm. However, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy is helpful in locating deeper veins not visible to the eye as the procedure progresses.