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Vascular ultrasound scan of your abdomen

Patient information A-Z

A vascular scientist using an ultrasound machine to examine a patient's abdomen.

Testing an update.

What is a vascular ultrasound scan of the abdomen?

A vascular ultrasound scan of your abdomen 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 and has many branches. This test uses ultrasound to produce images of the aorta and its branches. It is a safe and effective way to measure the size of the blood vessels, and assess the blood flow.

The test is painless and does not use any radiation or needles. There are no risks associated with it.

The abdominal aorta

About the scan

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.

What is consent?

Before your test is performed you must give your consent. Consent is the process by which you give permission to healthcare professionals to provide your care and treatment. It may be implied (offering your arm for a blood pressure reading) or formal (signing a consent form for an operation). In either case your consent must be given voluntarily and you must have all the information you need to make a decision. If you feel you do not have enough information or do not understand the procedure, please ask.

How do I prepare for the test?

A 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 a vascular ultrasound scan of the abdomen performed?

A clinical vascular scientist (who might be male or female) 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.

Typical equipment setup for a vascular ultrasound scan

Contacts/ further information

If you require further information, please do not hesitate to call the Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) on 01223 348117.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151