Diagnosis and Tests for Vascular Conditions

Doctors diagnose vascular disease by listening to a patient’s symptoms and performing a physical exam. Other tests may include:

Intravascular Ultrasound

Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS) is a medical imaging methodology that combines catheterization and echocardiography to allow doctors to see coronary arteries from the inside-out in real time. IVUS uses the same technology as the ultrasound imaging used in treadmill stress testing, and many other medical procedures. High-frequency sound waves produce detailed images of the interior walls of arteries making it possible to evaluate the amount of disease present, and the best course of treatment.


An arteriogram is used to view blood flow through the heart. A special dye that shows up on an x-ray is injected into an artery to create an image that outlines narrow spots and blockages which can also be repaired or treated during the same procedure. 

Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)

Comparing ankle blood pressure with blood pressure in the arm is known as the ankle-brachial index. An abnormal difference may indicate peripheral vascular disease, which is usually caused by atherosclerosis.

Medical Imaging

CT scan and MRI are also used to evaluate arteries. They are less invasive than the conventional arteriogram because there is no need for arterial puncture or sedation. The studies are called CTA (CT Arteriogram) or MRA (MR Arteriogram), and the images can be provided in 3D reconstruction.

Doppler Ultrasound

A Doppler ultrasound is a test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to measure the amount of blood flow through your arteries and veins, usually those that supply blood to your arms and legs. Vascular flow studies help diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that include blood clots and poor circulation.

Catheter Angiography

A catheter is guided through an artery in your groin to the affected area and dye is injected there. This procedure is more invasive, however, it allows for simultaneous treatment because the narrowed area of the blood vessel is widened through dilation or medication.

If you need a referral to a vascular specialist affiliated with South Texas Health System Heart, call the South Texas Health System Reserve and Learn line at 800-879-1033.