UK Vascular Lab Fact Sheet
What is the UK Vascular Lab?
The UK Vascular Lab uses vascular ultrasound to generate images of the blood flow within the veins and arteries. The ultrasound is noninvasive, meaning that the procedure does not require the use of needles, dyes, radiation or anesthesia.
A vascular ultrasound has two steps. Step one requires a picture taken either in black and white or color. Step two creates an audio recording, or Doppler, of the blood flow within the veins and arteries.
What tests does the lab perform?
There are five major areas of testing:
Extracranial means "outside the head." This step examines the carotid arteries located on either side of the neck. During the ultrasound, gel is applied to the neck to assess the amount of blood flow in the arteries. This kind of ultrasound allows technicians to test for blockages leading to the head or brain or coronary artery disease (also known as CAD). The lack of blood can cause shortages of oxygen, which can cause transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), more commonly known as warning strokes or mini-strokes. This lack of blood can also cause a full stroke.
Intracranial means "inside the head." Gel is applied to one of three areas where the bone on the outside of the skull is thinner (an area on each side of the head and one on the back of the head). This ultrasound evaluates the blood vessels that supply the brain within the skull. Intracranial ultrasounds are particularly useful for treatment of stroke, cerebral aneurysm and cerebral hemorrhage, as well as for testing patients with sickle cell and those with brain death.
Arterial evaluates the flow through the arteries supplying blood to the arms and legs. This ultrasound is used to test for peripheral artery disease (PAD), assess the use of stents – metal devices that hold vessels open – and evaluate kidney failure patients who have received a dialysis graft.
Venous ultrasounds look for blood clots caused by deep venous thrombosis or DVT. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the large veins of the leg. The blood clot may cause swelling and pain, or there may be no pain at all. When a clot breaks off into the bloodstream, it is called an embolism. Embolisms can be life threatening, for instance if they get stuck in the brain, lungs or heart. People who spend extended periods inactive, such as those on bed rest or who are traveling, have an increased risk for developing DVT. This risk is also higher among people who are having estrogen treatments and those who smoke.
Abdominal ultrasounds are used to test for aortic aneurysms, which are prevalent in smokers. Abdominal aortic aneurysms (also known as AAAs happen when the aortic wall weakens, causing it to "balloon." Eventually the aneurysm can grow large enough that it ruptures.
An ultrasound of the kidney can be done to test for hypertension and other kidney diseases as well.
Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories (ICAVL)
The UK Vascular Laboratory achieved accreditation by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories (ICAVL). This accreditation recognizes excellence in patient care as well as high levels of quality in testing for the diagnosis of vascular disease.
There are five areas a vascular lab can be accredited in:
- extracranial cerebrovascular
- intracranial cerebrovascular
- peripheral venous
- peripheral arterial
- visceral vascular
During the accreditation process, every aspect of a vascular lab's daily operations is reviewed and an assessment of the quality of health care is provided to patients. In addition, part of the accreditation process institutions are required to identify and correct any potential problems, revising protocols as necessary and validating quality-assurance programs.
UK is the only vascular lab in the state accredited in all five areas. Across the country approximately 1,600 labs have some level of accreditation, but only 16 are accredited in all five.