Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS)

Intravascular Ultrasound (or IVUS) is a diagnostic test that utilizes soundwaves to see inside the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply the heart with blood.

IVUS is a combination of a heart ultrasound (also known as an echocardiogram) and cardiac catheterization and is used to detect blood vessel blockage and other heart problems.

For an IVUS, a small tube known as a catheter is placed in an artery in the patient's groin. At the top of the catheter is a miniature ultrasound probe. The catheter is threaded to the heart, offering an inside-out look at the arteries. This ultrasound view of the coronary arteries provides valuable additional information in helping the physician determine the extent of disease and the most safe and appropriate therapy for each patient.

For many patients, IVUS is done during cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart ailments. With the injection of a special dye, cardiac catheterization offers a view of any buildup on a patient's coronary arteries. An IVUS can identify cholesterol and fat deposits (or plaque) - a build-up of which leads to hardening of the arteries - on the artery walls.

Although there are slight risks associated with angioplasty and cardiac catheterization, IVUS exams are very safe when performed by an experienced team and the test itself represents no additional risks.

Because an IVUS test is usually performed in concert with angioplasty or cardiac catheterization, no extraordinary preparation on the part of the patient is involved, although patients are sometimes reminded not to eat or drink for six to eight hours before the test and to let their health care team know what medications (including herbal supplements) they take and if they have diabetes or any allergies.

After the test, the catheter is removed and a bandage is placed on the area. Patients are generally advised to remain on their backs for several hours to prevent bleeding. If the IVUS test was done during angioplasty, the patient will remain in the hospital for a period of time. If the test was conducted during cardiac catheterization, patients will remain in the hospital for three to six hours.