If you’re having blood circulation problems, or if you’re at risk for congenital heart disease or blocked or bulging arteries – especially in your arms or legs – your doctor may order a Doppler ultrasound. It’s a painless, noninvasive, and risk-free procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to measure the amount of blood flow through your arteries and veins.
As part of a blood flow analysis by your doctor, a Doppler ultrasound can help diagnose a range of circulatory conditions, including blood clots, heart valve defects, and poor circulation. It can also detect blocked or reduced blood flow through narrow areas of your arteries that could lead to a stroke.
What Can a Doppler Ultrasound Find?
Specifically, a Doppler ultrasound exam may be ordered by your doctor if you exhibit symptoms of any of the following conditions:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – This is a condition in which a blood clot forms – usually in the leg or hip area.
- Arteriosclerosis – This is a narrowing and hardening of an artery that supplies blood to your legs and feet.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis – This is the inflammation of veins due to a blood clot just beneath the skin’s surface.
- Vascular tumors in your legs or arms.
In addition to determining the blood pressure within your arteries, a Doppler ultrasound can also indicate how much blood is flowing through your arteries and veins – which is crucial to maintaining your cardiovascular health.
Undergoing a Doppler Exam
A Doppler exam doesn’t require any preparation. However, if you are a smoker, you’ll be asked to refrain for several hours before the test. This is because smoking causes your blood vessels to narrow, which will affect the test results.
Usually, a Doppler scan is performed in the radiology department of a hospital, or in a clinic, doctor’s office, or peripheral vascular laboratory. The procedure may vary slightly, but it usually entails the following:
First, you’ll remove your clothing, jewelry, and any other objects from the area that is being examined and put on a hospital gown. You’ll then be instructed to lie down on an examination table or bed.
The ultrasonographer administering the test will place a water-soluble gel on a transducer, which is a handheld device that directs the high-frequency soundwaves into the arteries or veins that are being examined.
The healthcare professional may then place blood pressure cuffs around various parts of your body – usually to your thigh, calf, ankle, or different sections of your arm. The purpose of the cuffs is to help compare blood pressure in various parts of your leg or arm.
As the transducer presses against your skin and is moved along your arm or leg, it sends sound waves through the skin and other body tissue to your blood vessels. These sound waves send images and information to a computer where they are processed and recorded, producing graphs or pictures that show blood flow in the arteries and veins.
During the procedure, the ultrasonographer is looking for any abnormal blood flow patterns, such as narrowing of the blood vessels, blood clots, blockage of the arteries, venous occlusion (closing of a vein), or poor circulation.
The entire procedure takes about an hour. Once it’s done, you may resume your usual activities – no recovery is necessary. Test results are sent to your doctor, who will explain the results in more detail and tell you whether any additional tests or treatment is necessary.
Imaging Specialists in Palm Beach County
At Independent Imaging, we provide state-of-the-art Doppler exams that offer superior image quality and performance. To learn more about our services, call Independent Imaging at (561) 795-5558 to request an appointment, or use our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you.