Inferior Vena Cava Ultrasound

An inferior vena cava (IVC) ultrasound examines the IVC, the largest vein in the abdomen.  The iliac veins, which are branches of the IVC, are also evaluated as part of this exam.  Images are acquired using a hand held probe (transducer) that is applied to the abdomen. 

Why is an inferior vena cava ultrasound performed?

This test is used to:

  • Evaluate for the presence or absence of a blood clot (thrombus) in the IVC or iliac veins.
  • Monitor existing thrombus or follow-up after insertion of an IVC filter.
  • Evaluate for May-Thurner Syndrome, which results in compression of the left iliac vein.

Can I eat or drink on the day of the test?

DO NOT eat or drink for 8 hours prior to this test.  You may take small sips of water.
Please do not chew gum or smoke the day of the test.
If you are diabetic and unable to fast, please eat a low-fat diet (like toast, fruit or juice).  No dairy products, carbonated beverages or beverages with caffeine.


Why can’t I eat or drink anything before this exam?

When you eat, drink, or even chew gum, you swallow air into the stomach and bowel.  Excess air in the bowel reduces ultrasound visibility of the IVC and iliac veins.  Fasting before the exam helps to minimize interference from bowel.


Should I take my medications the day of the test?

Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor.  Small sips of water are okay.


What happens during the test?

• A vascular sonographer will perform the ultrasound exam of your IVC and iliac veins.
• Before the test, the sonographer will explain the procedure.
• The sonographer will ask you to lie on your back on an exam table. You will be asked to raise your shirt halfway up your torso and to move your pants down to the tops of your hips.  The sonographer will move a transducer around your abdomen to obtain images. The transducer will have a small amount of gel on the end of it. The gel used during the exam is water-soluble and easily washes off with soap and water.


How will I feel during the test?

You should feel no significant discomfort during this test. You will feel the pressure of the transducer on your abdomen.


How long does the test take?

This exam usually takes between 30-45 minutes, depending on many variables. After the test, you may go home or go to your other scheduled appointments.


How do I get the results of my test?

After a vascular surgeon has interpreted your exam, the results will be sent to your primary care physician and/or the vascular surgeon will go over the results with you during a follow-up appointment.