What is a renal/kidney ultrasound?
A renal artery ultrasound is a noninvasive examination that consists of imaging both arteries that supply blood to your kidneys. (Kidney and renal mean the same thing.) A Doppler sample is also performed.
The purpose of this examination is to see if there are any blockages or constrictions within the artery.
Ultrasound uses a transducer that sends out ultrasound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. The ultrasound transducer is placed on the skin, and the ultrasound waves move through the body to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer processes the reflected waves, which are then converted by a computer into an image of the organs or tissues being examined.
The sound waves travel at different speeds depending on the type of tissue encountered – fastest through bone tissue and slowest through air. The speed at which the sound waves are returned to the transducer, as well as how much of the sound wave returns, is translated by the transducer as different types of tissue.
An ultrasound gel is placed on the transducer and the skin to allow for smooth movement of the transducer over the skin and to eliminate air between the skin and the transducer for the best sound conduction.
The Doppler ultrasound, sometimes called a duplex study, is used to show the speed and direction of blood flow within the chest. Unlike a standard ultrasound, some sound waves during the Doppler exam are audible.
How do the kidneys work?
The body takes nutrients from food and converts them to energy. After the body has taken the food that it needs, waste products are left behind in the bowel and in the blood.
The kidneys and urinary system keep chemicals, such as potassium and sodium, and water in balance, and remove a type of waste, called urea, from the blood. Urea is produced when foods containing protein, such as meat, poultry, and certain vegetables, are broken down in the body. Urea is carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys.
Two kidneys, a pair of purplish-brown organs, are located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. Their function is to:
- Remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine
- Keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood
- Produce erythropoietin, a hormone that aids the formation of red blood cells
- Regulate blood pressure
The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule.
Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of the test. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Severe obesity
- Barium within the intestines from a recent barium procedure
- Intestinal gas