Vascular Testing & Imaging

Vascular Testing & Imaging

Vascular testing is used for screening or diagnostic purposes. A screening exam is a very limited evaluation that basically answers a yes/no question: Do I have it or not? It is not intended to answer the question: “How severe is it?” A diagnostic exam is intended to confirm or elaborate on a diagnosis and add to what the physician knows about a patient’s condition.

Vascular imaging can be very helpful for identifying the location and severity of vascular disease. We use imaging to help us decide if the disease is worrisome enough to mandate surgery and also to help with surgical planning.

Vascular Diagnostic Exams

When a physician suspects a patient has a vascular disease, the diagnosis needs to be confirmed through diagnostic vascular testing. Testing is performed by a vascular technologist/sonographer. Different tests evaluate blood flow, perfusion (how efficiently the blood reaches tiny capillaries in organs and tissues), and the pressure within blood vessels—both at rest and during exercise. Vascular tests are used to detect the presence, severity, and general location of arterial disease. Some of these tests involve imaging and some do not. Most vascular tests are noninvasive and can be performed in a noninvasive vascular laboratory.

Learn more about what types of vascular tests are available at our MarinHealth testing locations.

Vascular Screening Exams

Screening exams are used for vascular disease because many of these diseases are “silent,” meaning that people may be unaware they have the problem until they suffer a major event (such as a stroke, ruptured aneurysm, or gangrene). Screening exams have also helped to educate the general public about vascular disease.

Vascular surgeons support selective screening of people who are 60 or older and are known to have risk factors for atherosclerosis or aneurysm. These include:

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • A greater than 100-pack smoking history
  • Family history of heart attack, stroke, or abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)

Not all people need to be screened. For example, it is very unlikely that a person under the age of 60 with no risk factors for vascular disease will have positive findings on a screening exam. On the other hand, a 70-year-old man with hypertension, a 40-year smoking habit, and a family history of ruptured aneurysms should probably skip the screening and have a diagnostic imaging study of his abdomen.