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Intravascular ultrasound

Contents of this page:


Anterior heart arteries
Anterior heart arteries
Coronary artery blockage
Coronary artery blockage
Cardiac catheterization
Cardiac catheterization

Alternative Names    Return to top

IVUS; Ultrasound - coronary artery; Endovascular ultrasound

Definition    Return to top

Intravascular ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to see inside the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart.

Description    Return to top

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create moving images of organs and systems within the body. IVUS is a combination of a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram) and cardiac cathertization.

A tiny ultrasound wand is attached to the top of a tiny, hollow tube called a catheter. During the IVUS procedure, the ultrasound catheter is inserted into an artery in your groin area and moved up to the heart. This gives the health care provider a look at your arteries from the inside-out.

IVUS is often done during angioplasty. Angioplasty gives a general look at the coronary arteries, but can not show the walls of the arteries. IVUS images highlight the artery walls and can show if there are cholesterol and fat deposits (plaques). Build up of such plaque leads to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

IVUS has provided a great amount of insight into how stents become clogged (stent restenosis). The method has helped show that about 20% of cases of stent restenosis occur when the stent has not expanded properly.

Why the Procedure is Performed    Return to top

IVUS may be used to:

Risks    Return to top

There is a slight risk of complications associated with angioplasty and cardiac catheterization. However, the tests are very safe when performed by an experienced team. IVUS adds no additional risk.

Risks of angioplasty may include:

Risks of cardiac catheterization may include:

After the Procedure    Return to top

After the test, the catheter is removed. A bandage is placed on the area. You will usually be asked to lie flat on your back with pressure on your groin area for a few hours after the test to prevent bleeding.

If IVUS was done during cardiac catheterization, you will stay in the hospital for about 3 to 6 hours. If IVUS was done during angioplasty, you will stay in the hospital for 12 to 24 hours.

References    Return to top

Hartnell GG, Gates J. Ischaemic heart disease. In: Grainger RC, Allison D, Adam, Dixon AK, eds. Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 25.

Nicholson T, Patel J. The aorta, including intervention. In: Grainger RC, Allison D, Adam, Dixon AK, eds. Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 27.

Sipahi I. Intravascular Ultrasound in the Current Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Era. Cardiol Clin. 2006 May; 24(2); 163-173.

Update Date: 12/2/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Emile Riggs Mohler III, MD, Vascular Medicine, Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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