What is intravascular ultrasound (IVUS)?

Intravascular ultrasound is a catheter-based diagnostic procedure used to see the coronary arteries from the inside out. IVUS can provide more detailed, real-time information to help doctors determine how to best treat patients. The technology can help provide more accurate information for stent placement in the coronary vessel in order to reduce complications. It can also be used to determine if the angioplasty or atherectomy was successful.

Who is a candidate for IVUS?

Patients who are candidates for transluminal coronary interventional procedures are candidates for IVUS imaging.

If you have any of the following conditions, you are not a candidate for IVUS:

  • Patients who have bacteremia or sepsis
  • Patients who have abnormal bleeding issues
  • Patients diagnosed with coronary artery spasm
  • Patients who are not candidates for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery
  • Patients who are not candidates for percutaneous transluminal coronary interventional procedures
  • Unstable blood flow
  • Patients who have a fully blocked artery (total occlusion)

How does an IVUS work?

An ultrasound is attached to the end of a catheter and inserted into an artery in the groin and is threaded to the heart. Once in place, an echocardiography measures the sound waves that are reflecting off the blood vessels and converts the waves to images. IVUS is typically performed during another procedure.

It is different from an angiography in that angiography doesn’t look inside the arteries. 

What are benefits of an IVUS?

Intravascular ultrasound imaging allows a doctor to see inside the arteries to understand the condition of the vessels. The procedure can also reveal the recurrence of plaque buildup or fat deposits in the arteries after it had previously been removed. Your risk of heart attack increases as the fat builds up in the arteries, so the information collected in this procedure can help your doctor develop an appropriate treatment plan for your case.

What are risks of IVUS?

Although, intravascular ultrasound imaging is relatively safe if performed by an experienced healthcare team, there are risks associated with the anesthesia and procedure including:

  • Medication reactions
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe, abnormal bleeding
  • Formation of blood clots
  • Infection at the incision site 

Other risks associated with having IVUS imaging include:

  • Damaging a blood vessel or a heart valve
  • Suffering from an arrhythmia 
  • Suffering a heart attack

Recovery after intravascular ultrasound

You must lie flat for up to six hours after the procedure is completed. Some patients may be kept overnight in the hospital for observation. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home from the hospital.

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