Renal Artery Duplex Scan

What is Renal Artery Duplex Scan?

A Renal Artery Duplex Scan or renal artery ultrasound is a test to check for problems in the renal arteries, the blood vessels that supply your kidneys. Ultrasound is used to get pictures of the arteries and kidneys. As part of this procedure, a specialized Doppler technique is used to measure the movement of blood within the vessels. This provides detailed pictures of these blood vessels to help determine the extent and cause of restricted blood flow caused by renal artery narrowing. 

Renal artery disease often doesn’t show signs or symptoms until it is advanced.  A common presentation may be high blood pressure as the kidneys monitor the flow of blood through the renal artery and adjust the blood pressure in the body.  

There are multiple causes of renal artery narrowing or stenosis. 

The most common is known as atherosclerosis or plaque which can happen due to age, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia (cholesterol abnormality).  This condition can cause progressive narrowing which can in some causes cause sudden elevation in blood pressure. The ultrasound helps determine if this condition is present, and your interventional radiologist can use this information to guide you with regards to treatment, such as a renal artery stent. 

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD) is another condition that can cause narrowing of the renal artery.  This condition results in abnormalities in the walls that make up the renal arteries.   This can cause renal artery narrowing (stenosis), and/or enlargement (aneurysm) and can affect other arteries in your body.  Narrowed arteries may reduce blood flow and affect the function of your organs. FMD appears most commonly in the arteries leading to the kidneys and brain and may include renal artery blockage.  Interventional radiologists can use a renal artery ultrasound as a screening tool, and if you have symptoms, can use this to help guide treatment of any aneurysm or stenosis. 

If you have sudden hypertension (high blood pressure) that begins before age 30 or after age 50, or you have hypertension that is hard to control, it could mean that you need treatment for renal stenosis. Risk factors include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of early heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Smoking or use of other tobacco products

Renal artery ultrasound can also be used prior to the planning of a renal (kidney) transplant. It allows for accurate measurement of blood vessels and evaluation of any potential abnormalities in the area the kidney is to be transplanted.

It is also used to evaluate kidney transplants at scheduled time points to make sure the kidney is normal in appearance.  It is commonly used to evaluate the renal artery and vein to the transplant to make sure that there is no post-surgical scarring or narrowing.

The renal artery ultrasound is a painless procedure. You will lay face-up on a movable exam table and you may be turned to either side.  A warm gel is placed over the abdomen and an ultrasound wand is gently passed back and forth on your skin. A digital image of the renal artery is shown on a video screen and a measurement is made of the blood flow through the artery. This will allow for evaluation and assessment of any narrowing or abnormality present. 

Talk to your physician or interventional radiologist to determine if a renal ultrasound is an appropriate part of your work-up.

Why choose Fairfax Vascular Center?

While renal ultrasound is a simple exam, there are many factors that go into successful imaging and interpretation.  These range from high-quality, updated ultrasound machines, experienced ultrasound technologists and experienced vascular and interventional radiologists. 

Fairfax Vascular Center prides itself on the exceptional quality of our ultrasound equipment and team. Our center is unique in that it has dedicated interventional radiologists—physicians who are experts in the imaging interpretation, medical management and procedural treatment of vascular disease.  We routinely perform surveillance, management and interventions in renal artery stenosis that is a result of a variety of causes including Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD).  We also work closely with our transplant surgeons to provide imaging surveillance and intervention in the setting of renal artery transplant.  

Geographically, we are among the most experienced dedicated vascular specialists for diagnostic imaging related to the vascular system and vascular disease.  Thanks to our rigorous emphasis on quality of imaging and interpretation, we are able to provide our patients with the utmost in experience and comprehensive care.

FAQ icon

Why would my physician recommend Renal Artery scan?

Your physician may recommend a renal artery scan if you have problems with the arteries that supply blood to your kidneys, early signs of kidney failure or if your blood pressure is high or difficult to control.

FAQ icon

What do I need to do before my procedure?

You will be given detailed instructions by our staff before your procedure. In general, do not eat, drink any dairy products or smoke anything after midnight the night before your procedure. Water and daily medication may be taken if necessary. Be sure to bring your insurance card, photo ID, list of current medications (dose and frequency) and any diagnostic testing results.

FAQ icon

What should I expect during a Renal Artery scan?

You will lay face-up on a moveable exam table and you may be turned to either side. Warm gel is placed over the area to be tested and a probe is gently passed back and forth on your skin. An image of the artery is shown on a video screen. The renal arteries are identified and a measurement is made of the speed of blood flow through the artery. During the exam, you will hear the ultrasound machine reproduce your pulse as detected through the Doppler component of the exam.

FAQ icon

What should I expect after a Renal Artery Scan?

When the imaging is complete, the clear gel will be wiped off your skin. After the procedure, you may resume your normal activities immediately.

FAQ icon

How do I schedule a Renal Artery Scan with Fairfax Vascular Center?

Before scheduling an appointment, you will need to get a referral from your physician. Once you have a referral, you can schedule an appointment by calling 703.698.4475 Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm.

FAQ icon

When are appointments offered for a Renal Artery Scan?

Appointments are available at Fairfax Vascular Center Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm. Learn more about this location.

Have questions about your insurance coverage?