A Doppler ultrasound, also known as Doppler ultrasonography and popularly known as a Doppler test
A Doppler ultrasound, also known as Doppler ultrasonography and popularly known as a Doppler test, is an imaging test that uses high-frequency (ultrasonic) sound waves to show the blood flow through the blood vessels. It is done using a regular ultrasound machine but with a different setting. The only difference is that a regular ultrasound test cannot show the blow flow inside a blood vessel.
The Doppler ultrasound test is most often used to check
- Blockages in the blood vessels (of the limbs; heart; and abdominal organs such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, or kidneys).
- Cardiovascular damage (blood vessel damage).
- Stenosis (abnormal narrowing) of the blood vessels.
- Aneurysm (bulging in an artery).
- Structural defects of the heart.
- The functioning of the heart.
- Blood flow in a pregnant woman and her fetus (unborn baby).
- Blood flow after surgery.
When do you need a Doppler ultrasound?
You may need a Doppler ultrasound if you have symptoms that suggest the possibility of a reduced blood flow or heart disease. These conditions include:
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) (a common symptom of this condition is narrowed arteries in the leg that cause leg pain while walking)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (this condition is characterized by blood clot formation in the deep veins of the leg that causes the affected leg to become swollen, red, and warm)
- Injury to the blood vessels
- Small size of a fetus (than it should be at that stage of pregnancy)
- Sickle cell disease
- Preeclampsia (increased blood pressure during pregnancy)
What happens during a Doppler ultrasound?
A Doppler ultrasound is usually performed in the following steps:
- The radiologist asks you to lie down on your back on a table.
- They ask to expose the area that needs to be tested.
- They then apply a gel on the skin over the area.
- Next, they will place a transducer (wand-like device) on the area. They keep on pressing gently with the transducer against the skin while moving along the area.
- The device sends sound waves to the area and captures the echo. You may hear “swishing” sounds.
- The sound waves get recorded and converted into images or graphs shown on a monitor.
- Finally, the radiologist will wipe the gel off your skin.
This test usually takes anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes.
A Doppler ultrasound is a painless test and would not cause you any discomfort. If you feel any discomfort, tell your radiologist.
How do you prepare for a Doppler ultrasound test?
Your healthcare provider will let you know about any preparations before the test. You may need to
- Remove jewelry at home before coming for the test.
- Avoid smoking 2 hours before your test (nicotine can affect your test results).
- Fast (not to eat or drink) for several hours before the test.
Does a Doppler ultrasound carry any risks?
A Doppler ultrasound is considered a risk-free test. It is safe even during pregnancy.