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Intravascular Ultrasound

What is intravascular ultrasound?

Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is a way to look at the inside of a blood vessel with high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound).

When is it used?

IVUS is usually done during a percutaneous coronary intervention (also called angioplasty) or a coronary angiogram. It can give your healthcare provider a close, detailed view of the inside of an artery.

How do I prepare for the test?

Before the test, your healthcare provider will want to know what medicines you are taking. If you are taking daily aspirin for a medical condition, ask your provider if you need to stop taking it before your test.

Talk with your healthcare provider about what medicines you should take before the test. Your provider may prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots from forming during the test.

Tell your provider if you have had any kidney problems or reactions to iodine-containing foods, such as seafood, or chemicals, such as X-ray contrast dye.

Follow the instructions your healthcare provider gives you. Eat a light meal the night before the test. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the test. If you have diabetes, your provider may give you special instructions about your diabetic medicine.

Arrange for someone to drive you home after the test.

What happens during the test?

This test is usually done at the hospital.

Before the test you will be given medicine to help you relax, but you will be awake during the test. You will also be given a shot of anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted.

Your healthcare provider will put a very thin, flexible tube called a catheter through your skin and into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your provider will guide the catheter to the artery being examined or treated. The tube has a probe at its tip that bounces ultrasound waves off the inside of the blood vessel. Once the probe is in the right place, the ultrasound waves are used to make pictures of the inside of the artery.

At the end of the test, your healthcare provider will remove the catheter and put pressure on the area where the catheter was inserted (the puncture site) to control any bleeding.

What happens after the test?

After the test you may stay in an observation area for at least a few hours to make sure the puncture site is not bleeding. Avoid any strenuous activity for the rest of the day to prevent bleeding. You may have a bruise near the puncture site and be uncomfortable for a few days.

Ask your healthcare provider how to take care of yourself at home. Ask about what symptoms to watch for, and what precautions you should take. Ask how and when you should expect to hear your test results. Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this test?

The detailed view of the inside of the artery will help your healthcare provider diagnose and treat your problem.

What are the risks of this test?

Possible risks include:

  • The test can cause irregular heart rhythms, which might need treatment.
  • You may have bleeding where the catheter was put into your blood vessel.
  • If the catheter is put into an artery, a blood clot could form around the catheter. The clot could block the artery.
  • The catheter may damage a blood vessel.
  • In rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the drug used in the anesthesia.
  • While not common, a heart attack or stroke might be triggered by the test.

You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks might apply to you.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your provider right away if:

  • The place where the catheter was put into your skin starts to bleed or swell, or it gets more painful.
  • Your leg or foot is painful or unusually cool.
  • You have slurred speech, balance problems, or trouble using your arm or leg.
  • You start having a rash, itching, sweating, or trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain that is new or different from chest pain you have had before.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the test or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.
Written by Donald L. Warkentin, MD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-10
Last reviewed: 2010-04-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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