U is for Ultrasound


I’ve had many ultrasounds in my life. When I was pregnant with both my kids, ultrasonography was a joyous, wonderful experience where you get to see your baby for the first time, before he or she is born. Back when my kids were little, ultrasounds made the babies look like little blobs and fuzzy white lines on a black background. Only rarely could one make out the approximate shape of a baby. How the heck they could find boy and girl parts from those fuzzy images, I’ll never know. Today, the new ultrasound technology is much better. I’m almost envious, but not nearly enough to go back and have another baby–good God, no. I love my kids, but… no, no, no, no, and hell no.

I’ve also had breast and axillary sonography. My boobies are disproportionately big for the rest of my body, and mammogram isn’t easy with big boobies. You women with small breasts might think mammograms are rough, but you’ve got it lucky compared to us melon gals, because they have to compress and squeeze those suckers between the plates–I left bruised! But I also have swelling and fluid retention in the lymph gland area, so they did ultrasonography under my arms and along the side of the breasts, just to rule out anything major.

I had some swelling that was weird and uneven in my knee once, so they did ultrasound on it. That wasn’t so bad. It was nearly identical to the sonograms when you’re pregnant, except they did it on the knee instead.

But there’s another type of ultrasound that I’ve had done three times now, and if I never had to do it again, it won’t be soon enough. This is the doppler sonogram for DVT. DVT being Deep Vein Thrombosis. The CTEPH I have was most likely caused by the DVTs, mostly in my legs, being thrown into the lungs, through the heart, and then the clots not fully absorbing back into the body like they should. The clots that lodge in the pulmonary artery then get calcified over, and the route for blood flowing from the heart to the lungs gets restricted, flow backs up, pressure builds and pushes blood back into the heart (congestive heart failure) and then the heart has to pump extra hard to push the blood into the lungs.

All of this means, when I get up and move around, the demand for oxygen in my body increases, blood flows faster, heart rate rises quickly, breathing becomes difficult, oxygen doesn’t get to the organs in my body, sats drop, and the whole cycle repeats and repeats until I rest and ‘catch my breath’ or until I pass out or drop dead. We definitely don’t hope for the latter. So I have to be careful about how I move around, how I exercise, how I walk and such. I wear supplemental oxygen to help keep the saturation levels as close to normal as it can keep them (which is still usually in the low 80s when I’m up and moving around–on a good day).

Anyway, the DVT doppler sonogram is a bitch. I’d rather get stuck with needles than have this test done. And when you actually have a DVT, it’s even worse. This test uses a special ultrasound wand that looks at the deep veins in the middle of your legs. It looks for them on the tender interior side of your leg, a place that isn’t used to getting hit, touched or whacked around. You may not realize just how tender that inside of your leg is until someone starts to really push on it. And by really push on it, I mean, they PUSH. They have to push hard enough to ‘move’ the vein so it sort of ‘closes’ some and they can see the blood flow going through it. This means, they push hard and they push deep.

And it fucking hurts. I mean, it hurts, hurts, hurts, to the point, I was lying on the table, trying my best to stay relaxed and still, and I had tears streaming down my face.

Now, little known factoid: DVTs are usually painful. DVT Doppler ultrasounds are often painful. But the two together? OMFG. I was in hell. It was some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and they were doing it to me on purpose! I mean, I had natural childbirth with my son, not a drop of any medicine, no epidural, nothing, and I’d almost rather go through that again than to have to have another DVT Doppler, especially while I have an active DVT. GoodNESS!

It’s not invasive. So it tricks you. It makes you think it will all be okay, because you’re thinking it’s just like when they do it for the babies or for the breasts. It’s not! They trick you!

I’ve had one done now three times, two times were clear and one time was positive–but all three times hurt like hellfire.

So if you ever have to have one, take someone with you who has strong hands. Grip the bedrails, bring something to bite down on. Something, anything… ’cause it’s quite uncomfortable.

Yes, that’s what they told me it would be, just mildly uncomfortable. I was still crying an hour after the test. They lied. They lied. They lied.

Good news? Now that I’m on the warfarin and they put the IVC filter in place (inferior vena cava filter that ‘catches’ blood clots coming from the legs up into the abdomen), I shouldn’t have to have a doppler of my legs again. Fingers crossed.

Love and stuff,



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One Response to “U is for Ultrasound”

  1. Buffy says:

    I don’t remember the first Doppler I had being that painful – but then, I had an active DVT on the leg the technician started with and the rest of the exam became fairly cursory, I think. But the second bi-lateral Doppler I had? and the third? They say we forget pain… the actual sensation… because if we didn’t, there are certain things, as a species, we would never do again… like child birth… or Doppler examinations.

    However, it may also have something to do with the degree of edema in the legs when the Doppler is being done. The first time, I had no edema whatsoever. The last two times, my legs were very swollen, and the procedure was probably more painful because of that.

    All that said, it really is neat technology!

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