The Vascular Disease Process
Vascular ultrasound is used to examine the large vessels of the body. The term vascular disease relates to the abnormal changes that may develop within these large veins or arteries. The changes result in varying problems depending on the site and extent of the disease and whether arteries or veins are involved. When arteries are affected, the inside of the vessel may be narrowed (stenosis) or in advanced situations, blocked, resulting in reduced blood flow to specific organs or muscles. This disease process is commonly called atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries. In other cases, the walls of an artery may weaken and over time stretch. The artery may increase in size significantly (aneurysm) resulting in the blood becoming stagnant, blocking the vessel. More seriously, the artery may rupture or burst. It is not uncommon for both problems to present at the same time. Similarly, if the veins are diseased, they may block due to blood clotting (thrombosis) as a result of trauma, stagnation or clotting abnormalities. If the walls of the veins weaken, they become enlarged and tortuous, appearing as varicose veins.