A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging test that uses sound waves to evaluate blood flow through the major vessels. There are many benefits to Doppler ultrasound: It is the only type of ultrasound capable of evaluating blood vessels; it does not utilize any ionizing radiation; and it can easily be performed in a doctor's office. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, a Doppler ultrasound provides extremely accurate results, although it is occasionally possible for a bone to block part of an image. A Doppler ultrasound procedure is considered risk-free.
Reasons for a Doppler Ultrasound
A Doppler ultrasound can be used to diagnose dangerous conditions during their early stages, giving doctors the chance to take procedural or surgical measures that may prove lifesaving. Doppler ultrasounds may be administered to detect the following:
- Blocked carotid artery
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Heart-valve defects
- Blocked or narrowed blood vessels anywhere in the body
By using Doppler ultrasound, potentially fatal events, including pulmonary embolism, stroke or heart attack, can be diagnosed and treated through early intervention.
The Doppler Ultrasound Procedure
Prior to a Doppler ultrasound procedure, nicotine products should be avoided for several hours because they restrict blood vessels and interfere with accurate results. A patient is required to wear loose clothing and remove jewelry, and fast for up to 12 hours before the test. For an ultrasound of the pelvic region, a patient may have to drink many glasses of water, and refrain from urinating, because a full bladder is necessary for the procedure.
During a Doppler ultrasound, gel is applied to the area to be examined in order to assist in the conduction of sound waves. An instrument called a transducer is placed on the skin, and moved back and forth in order for the sound waves to produce images. The images appear on a computer screen, which allows the doctor to view the blood vessels in real time; they can also be saved for future review. The entire Doppler ultrasound procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to perform.