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Diagnosing Vascular and Aortic Disease

State-of-the-Art Diagnostic Tools

Physicians at the University of Chicago Medicine evaluate each patient using advanced diagnostic tools to quickly and effectively identify their condition(s). Our state-of-the-art vascular laboratory was among the first group of vascular laboratories in the nation accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories -- demonstrating our high standards and dedication to exemplary care.

Diagnostic Services

  • Duplex Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves provide images of blood vessels, tissues and organs. This allows physicians to assess blood flow through veins and arteries in real time.
  • CT scan: Combines X-ray images with computer technology to provide detailed images of the body, including bone, muscle, fat and organs.

  • Angiogram: Uses contrast (dye) in the blood vessels to make them visible on X-rays, allowing physicians to identify any obstructions, narrowing in the arteries as well as a number of other vascular conditions.

  • Magnetic Resonance Angiogram: Contrast is used to make the blood vessels visible on an X-ray and aids in the diagnosis of aneurysms, dissections, stenosis, vaculitis and more.
  • Echocardiogram: Sound waves enable a physician to evaluate the structure and function of the heart. This helps determine if there is any disease in the heart.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Magnetic waves provide detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Records the electrical activity of the heart to identify any abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) and detects heart muscle damage. 
  • Echocardiogram (Echo): Sound waves are used to produce a study of the motion of the heart's chambers and valves.

In some situations where symptoms are more severe, additional diagnostic procedures may be performed, including:

  • Stress test (treadmill or exercise ECG): This test is performed while a patient walks on a treadmill to monitor the heart during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates also are monitored.
  • Cardiac catheterization: During this procedure, X-rays are taken after a contrast agent is injected into an artery to locate the narrowing, occlusions and other abnormalities of specific arteries. Additionally, the function of the heart and the valves may be assessed. 
  • Cardiac MRI: This noninvasive test produces comprehensive images of the heart. It may be used to complement an Echo for a more precise look at the heart valves and heart muscle, or in preparation for heart valve surgery.

If necessary, other tests can be performed under the coordinated care of our surgeons. Computed tomography (CT) scans are frequently used for aneurysms when ultrasound evaluations are difficult or inconclusive. Angiography may also be performed to further images of the arteries and veins. These tests may require a short hospitalization, since they involve inserting a catheter into the artery or vein.

Fighting Cardiovascular Disease with Early Diagnosis

We are raising awareness of vascular disease in the community by offering heart and vascular screening to diagnose conditions that are asymptomatic in their early stages. Through our Dare to C.A.R.E. program, qualified candidates are screened for carotid, abdominal, renal and extremity artery disease. Learn more about Dare to C.A.R.E.