A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive test procedure that can estimate the level of blood flow in your blood vessels.
Through the use of high-frequency waves bouncing off of circulating red blood cells, a Doppler ultrasound allows doctors to measure the levels of blood which is flowing through your veins and artieres. Not just that, it can also be used to check for any signs of blood vessel damage, narrowing or hardening.
In short, this style of ultrasound allows a doctor to accurately diagnose the cause of poor circulation. It can also be used to help check for signs of injuries or to monitor treatment in arteries and veins. However, there are alternative ways of checking such things and your doctor may not necessarily opt for the use of a Doppler ultrasound. These other procedures, however, are much more invasive compared to the risk-free and pain-free Doppler ultrasound.
When Is A Doppler Ultrasound Ordered
In most cases, a doctor may order or reccomend the use of a Doppler ultrasound exam when the veins or arteries in your legs, arms or neck show signs of decreased blood flow. Low blood flow is usually a sign of a blood clot or perhaps an injured blood vessel. A blockage in the artery can also be a likely cause. Although low blood flow may be a more common cause, it’s not the only one. Others include:
- The narrowing and hardening of the arteries supplying blood to the legs and feet.
- Vascular Tumors in the arms and legs
- Vein inflammation caused by a blood clot below the surface of the skin
- Thromboangiitis obliteranas which causes the hands and feet to become incredibly inflamed, as well as swollen.
- Many other blood-related illnesses and diseases
- Determining your blood pressure is another aspect where this procedure can be useful.
Sometimes, however, a Doppler ultrasound may not be enough. In these particular cases, a doctor may choose to instead use a much more invasive procedure such as an angiography. In this case, dye will be injected into your blood vessels in order to more clearly show up on X-ray images. Knowing if your doctor will order a Doppler ultrasound isn’t so easy to figure out. That will depend entirely on your specific doctor and your specific circumstances. Most doctors, however, will usually opt for the less invasive method when they have the option to. In such cases, it’s a good idea to understand what you’re in store for.
Luckily, a Doppler ultrasound is a relatively simple procedure. In most cases, a trained technician called a Sonographer will press a small hand-held device against your skin and over the area that is being examined. This test is usually performed in a doctor's office or hospital. Specifically it will take place in the radiology department. Although the process itself can vary sightly, in most cases, you can expect to experience much of the following:
- Before the procedure, you’ll typically need to remove any clothing or jewelry from the area that is being checked. Glasses, contact lenses or hearing aids will not need to be removed in most cases for example.
- After laying down on an examination table, a doctor will prepare a handheld device called a transducer. This usually means placing a water-soluble gel on it.
- In some cases, blood pressure cuffs may be placed around various areas of your body. Typically this will be your arm, thigh or ankle. This allows the examiner to accurately compare the blood pressure from various parts of your legs or arms.
- Once the doctor places the transducer on your skin, it will begin to send sound waves through your skin and to the blood vessels. As these sound waves echo off blood vessels, data enters a comptuer and will be processed. The result will be a graph or image that shows the flow of blood throughout the arteries and veins.
- The test will usually take around an hour to complete.
Once the procedure is over, you can quickly resume your day without issue in most cases.