What is IVUS?
An intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is a medical imaging technique used to assess the overall state of the coronary arteries by evaluating the images generated by an ultrasound transducer. It is particularly suitable to look at the blood vessels, to see if there are any potential atherosclerosis plaques or to determine if a stenting procedure was successful.
What does IVUS involve?
During an IVUS, a catheter is inserted, through which an ultrasound transducer can reach the area the specialist wants to look at. The ultrasound waves released by the transducer bounce back on the vessels’ walls and are gathered by the ultrasound equipment, where they are transformed into pictures. This technique is regarded as highly innovative, as in recent years it has been improved to show very clear pictures.
The images have different colours based on which tissue is being shown, for instance, lipids are shown in yellow and fibrotic tissues are shown in green. This screening is therefore very helpful as it can point to where a potential issue may be located, whilst also giving more information on the overall structure of the arteries themselves. However, it is an invasive procedure which is done under anaesthetic, often after a coronary angiography as a further diagnostic assessment.
Why is IVUS done?
IVUS is done to get a more complete image of the vessels where a potential atherosclerotic obstruction may be, as well as to check up on whether a stenting procedure was successful or not. It often complements an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan when assessing your overall cardiovascular health and determining if there are any plaques in the blood vessels. It is often considered as a secondary screening exam, carried out if a coronary angiography does not show clear enough results.
How can I prepare for IVUS?
Before an IVUS, you will be tested for allergies to the materials or anaesthetics used during the exam. You will be then hospitalised and will have to abstain from eating anything before the ultrasound.
What does it feel like during the procedure?
The procedure is not painful, as it is done under general anaesthesia. You may feel some discomfort afterwards where the catheter was placed.