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Renal Artery Ultrasound

renalThis test is used to look at the size and shape of the kidneys, and their blood vessels (the renal arteries). The test is often performed in people with newly diagnosed high blood pressure because abnormality of the kidney blood supply (narrowing of the renal arteries) is a potential cause of high blood pressure and impairment of kidney function.

Arteries can become narrowed due to two main processes:

  1. Atherosclerosis. This usually happens in the later decades of life and involves the build up of plaque in the wall of the artery ('hardening of the arteries').
  2. Fibromuscular dysplasia. This is an abnormality of the muscle layer of the renal artery that can cause narrowing of the vessel. This type of renal artery stenosis is seen in younger people, and is more common in women.

How is it done?

The renal duplex scan uses an ultrasound beam to measure the velocity of blood passing through the renal arteries. Scanning is performed with the probe placed on the abdomen and lower back.

The renal arteries lie at the back of the abdomen and can be obscured by gas in the intestines. This is less of a problem if the patient has not eaten for several hours, so the best results are obtained in the patient has been fasting (starving) for about 6 hours. Drinking water up to two hours before the test does not cause any difficulty. All medications may be taken as normal.

A report on the study will be sent to the referring doctor, with any recommendations for further investigations as appropriate.

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