One type of vascular study that is focuses on blood vessels in the kidneys is called a renal artery ultrasound. Arteries in the kidneys (renal arteries) carry blood from the heart. These arteries may become blocked or narrowed because of the build-up of plaque. The result could be kidney failure or high blood pressure. A renal artery ultrasound uses a transducer to ‘listen’ to echoes (reflections) of the sound waves. These waves are then converted by a computer into pictures of the artery. Ultrasound is a non-invasive test used by Dr. Diego to confirm stenosis in renal arteries.

Renal Artery Stenosis (as this narrowing of the blood vessels is called) does not usually cause any symptoms. However, it’s a serious condition, which can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and kidney disease.

Dr. Diego may order a renal artery ultrasound if he detects early signs of kidney failure, or if it becomes increasingly difficult to control a patient’s blood pressure in spite of treatment. This is a sign that the kidneys are affected, and producing hormones designed to increase blood pressure as less blood reaches them.

Renal artery stenosis is mostly seen in patients with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), especially those over the age of 55. When the arteries narrow and begin to carry less blood to the kidneys, the body reads the signals as low blood pressure. This triggers the release of some hormones from the kidney that lead to an increase in blood pressure.

Doppler Ultrasound (Duplex) Imaging depicts the artery by using sound waves, and can measure the blood flow in a vessel to determine whether there is occlusion (blockage).

Patients with unexplained kidney problems, or who have high blood pressure that seems resistant to medication and lifestyle changes may be asked to undergo a renal artery ultrasound.

If a patient with hypertension suddenly finds it difficult to control her blood pressure, this could be a warning sign. Another sign of trouble is if a patient begins to show signs of kidney malfunction after he starts taking medication for high blood pressure.

As always, be sure to tell Dr. Diego about all of the medications you are taking.