A renal artery or mesenteric artery ultrasound is used to assess blood flow to the kidneys, bowel and other organs in the abdomen.
The main vessels examined are renal arteries, celiac axis and SMA (Superior Mesenteric Artery). Disruption of blood flow in these vessels can cause issues including hypertension, changes to kidney function, pain, and ischaemic effects (restricted blood flow causing a shortage of oxygen) on organs. Usually, other imaging is used to assess these structures, including CT, MRI and Angiography. However, ultrasound can provide benefit to patients who are very young, allergic to contrast or have poor kidney function as it does not require the use of contrast (“x-ray dye”) and does not use ionising radiation.
Your examination will be performed by a sonographer who will introduce themselves, confirm your identity and the examination you are having done. First, a clear gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined. The ultrasound probe is moved over the skin surface to see the structures below. During the scan, you will be asked to hold your breath and move into certain positions to allow a clear view of the aorta and associated vessels. Measurements will be taken along the length of the vessels. During this procedure, it is common to use a form of ultrasound called Doppler. The Doppler allows assessment of aspects of blood flow. During the use of the Doppler, you may hear whooshing noises which are a representation of the blood flow or pulse.
The images are looked at by a radiologist who will provide a written report for your doctor. The radiologists may sometimes speak to you in person during your examination.
Before your Scan
You are required to fast (not eat or drink) for 8 hours before the exam. Fasting reduces the amount of gas present in your abdomen, which provides clearer images of the aorta. In the case of renal arteries, while we require you not to eat, we may sometimes ask that you remain hydrated and fill your bladder by drinking one litre of water, finishing one hour before the exam. This will depend on the reason your ultrasound is being performed. Preparation details will be given to you when you make your appointment.
If possible, book your appointment for first thing in the morning after an overnight fast.
Please also refrain from smoking.
You can take your usual medication with a small amount of water.
Diabetic patients should tell booking staff when making an appointment so the exam can fit in with your dietary requirements.
If possible, wear clothing that allows easy access to the area being scanned, such as two-piece clothing (separate upper/lower garments).
Approximately 30 – 60 minutes.
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