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Doppler Ultrasound

(Doppler Ultrasonography)
  • 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
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • 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

    Prior to Test
    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 6 or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.
    • Avoid smoking. Smoking can interfere with test results.
    Description of the Test
    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
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    After Test
    The gel will be cleaned from your body. You will be able to return to normal activities in most cases.
    How Long Will It Take?
    About 30 minutes to 1 hour
    Will It Hurt?
    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.
    If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

    American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

    Radiology Info—Radiologic Society of North America


    The College of Family Physicians of Canada

    Health Canada


    General ultrasound imaging. Radiologic Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016.

    Radiation-emitting products. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Updated December 16, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016.

    Revision Information

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