Ultrasound scan of your aorta

What is an ultrasound scan of your aorta?

An ultrasound scan of your aorta may also be called a “duplex scan.” The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This test uses ultrasound to produce images of this blood vessel in the abdomen. It is a safe and effective way to measure the size of the blood vessel, and assess the blood flow down to both legs. The test is painless and does not use any radiation or needles. There are no risks associated it.

Where do I go?

The Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) is on level 5 of the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre (ATC). Please inform reception of your arrival straight away. There are often other clinics in progress so you may not be called in order of arrival. You may bring a relative or friend in with you during the test or request a chaperone if you would like one.

How do I prepare for the test?

The clinical vascular scientist will need to scan your abdomen. Therefore, it is helpful if you only eat a light meal prior to your appointment. This will help remove any excess bowel gas and can improve the test results. You can drink fluids as normal. If a medical condition requires you to eat regularly, please do not restrict your food intake – it will still be possible to perform the scan.

How is an ultrasound scan of your aorta performed?

A clinical vascular scientist will perform and interpret your ultrasound scan. The test can take up to 30 minutes. You will be asked to lift up your top and lower your trousers to your hips. The lights will be dimmed to allow the best images to be obtained. The scan will be performed with you lying down on the couch. Gel is applied to your abdomen and the scan is carried out from just below the rib cage to the groin. The ultrasound probe will be moved across the abdomen to view the arteries. During the test, you may hear some “swooshing” noises from the ultrasound machine. These sounds are normal.

What happens next?

The clinical vascular scientist can comment briefly on the findings and will write a report for the consultant who requested the test. You will be able to discuss the results of this investigation fully with the referring team at your next outpatient appointment. In rare cases, the clinical vascular scientist may need to discuss the result with a doctor before you leave.