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Doppler Ultrasound

(Doppler Ultrasonography)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Test | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

Definition

A Doppler ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to examine parts of the body. It looks at the motion of fluids in the blood vessels.

Major Abdominal Arteries and Veins

Aorta and Vena Cava
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Reasons for Test

Doppler ultrasound is used to:

  • View the flow of blood through vessels and/or the heart
  • View and evaluate blockages to blood flow, such as clots
  • Assess build-up of plaque inside a vessel
  • Monitor blood flow through repaired blood vessels such as bypass grafts
  • Examine a baby during a pregnancy

Possible Complications

In most cases, there are no complications with this test.

What to Expect

Your doctor may do the following:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood or urine tests

In some cases your doctor may instruct you to:

  • Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in your intestines and make organs easier to see.
  • Have a full bladder before the test. You may need to drink six or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking can interfere with test results.

You will lie on a table. Your doctor will put a gel on the skin over the area that will be examined. The gel helps the sound waves travel between the machine and your body.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer. It looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are changed into images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. Photographs of the images may be taken.

You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.

Ultrasound of Abdomen

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The gel will be cleaned from your body. You will be able to return to normal activities in most cases.

About 30 minutes to 1 hour

No

A radiologist will examine the images after the test. Your doctor will let you know the results and talk to you about treatment.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if symptoms become worse.

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

http://www.aium.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada

http://www.cfpc.ca/

References:

Doppler. Radiological Society of North America Electronic Journal website. Available at: http://ej.rsna.org/ej3/0079-98.fin/doppler.htm. Accessed November 19, 2012.

General ultrasound imaging. Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=genus. Updated July 2, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.

Radiation-emitting products. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/MedicalImaging/ucm115357.htm. Updated June 6, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.

Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.