Key Points about Aortic Ultrasound
- The aorta is the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart and out to the rest of the body.
- An aortic ultrasound uses sound waves to create detailed images of your aorta.
- Your cardiologist uses these images to diagnose issues with the aorta and formulate the next steps of your treatment plan.
If your doctor suspects that you may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm – or AAA – you may need to undergo an aortic ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. AAA is a weakened, bulging area in the aorta that can lead to serious complications if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Your doctor may recommend you undergo an aortic ultrasound AAA screening if you:
- Are male and over age 60
- Have a family history of AAA
- Smoke tobacco or have in the past
Candidates for an aortic ultrasound
Aortic ultrasounds are most often used to confirm or screen for AAA. Your doctor can also use an aortic ultrasound to check for problems with your:
- Blood vessels in your abdomen
- Kidneys, including kidney stones
- Liver, including liver disease
Preparing for an aortic ultrasound
You will likely need to avoid eating or drinking (fast) for up to 12 hours before your aortic ultrasound. Your doctor will let you know whether you should continue your regular medications as prescribed. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home for the test.
Expectations from an aortic ultrasound
The aortic ultrasound is typically performed in a lab at the hospital. When you arrive, you will change into a hospital gown. You will lie on your back on the exam table.
The ultrasound technician applies a small amount of warm gel to your abdomen. The gel helps the ultrasound wand – called a transducer – to work better. The ultrasound tech then places the transducer on your abdomen, moving it around to obtain the needed images.
Duration of an aortic ultrasound
Aortic ultrasounds typically take about 30 minutes to complete. You should not feel any pain, but you may feel some discomfort if the areas underneath the transducer are tender.
Recovery from an aortic ultrasound
You can resume your normal activities right after the aortic ultrasound. You will have no restrictions or after-effects from the test. You will receive a call from your doctor’s office to come in for a follow-up appointment. During this appointment, your doctor will discuss the results of the aortic ultrasound with you and the next steps of your treatment plan.
When to seek care
If you think you may need to undergo this test, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.