How It Is Done
This test is done by a doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting imaging tests (Reference radiologist Opens New Window) or by an ultrasound technologist (sonographer) who is supervised by a radiologist. It is done in an ultrasound room in a hospital or doctor's office.
You will need to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the Doppler ultrasound scan. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes, depending on which area is being examined (you may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not interfere with the test). You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.
- For abdominal scans, you will lie on your back.
- For chest scans, you will lie on your back with your neck slightly extended.
- For head and neck scans, your head may be turned to one side.
- For an arm or leg scan, your head will be slightly raised and the exposed arm or leg will be turned slightly outward. Sometimes for a leg scan, you may be asked to lie on your stomach.
- During pregnancy, you will lie on your back or on your left side with your belly exposed.
Gel is applied to the skin to promote the passage of the sound waves. The transducer is placed in the gel and moved along the skin. You need to lie very still during the procedure. You may hear sounds that represent the flow of blood through the blood vessels.
The test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Arteries in the arms and legs
This test is often performed on both arms or both legs. Even if the suspected blood flow problem is in only one limb, both may be tested for comparison. If your arms are being tested, they will be tested first while you are lying down and then again while you are sitting.
Depending on which blood vessels are being tested, a blood pressure cuff may be wrapped around one or both limbs so that the blood pressure can be taken at several different places. When testing the legs, a blood pressure cuff may be wrapped first around the calf and then around the thigh. The test may be done at several locations on your leg. When testing the arms, the pressure cuff may be wrapped first around the forearm and then around the upper arm.
Testing may be done before and after exercise, if you are healthy enough.
Veins in the arms and legs
For this test, you will be asked to lie down and breathe normally. You must lie very still. Any changes in blood flow that occur as a response to your breathing patterns are noted.
The test may be repeated while the examiner presses on the veins close to the surface of your skin to help detect a clot in the vein (called a compression maneuver). The examiner may do this with your legs or arms in different positions to ensure that the blood supply is not blocked in these positions. The examiner may also squeeze your calf or forearm to help blood move more quickly through the veins (called an augmentation maneuver). This is done to evaluate blood flow toward your heart.
While your legs are being tested, you may also be asked to try to breathe out strongly with your nose pinched and your mouth closed (called a Reference Valsalva maneuver Opens New Window). This maneuver usually causes a sudden change in blood flow through the veins.
Arteries in the neck
You will be asked to lie down with a pillow underneath your head for support. The test is performed on both sides of your neck, and then the results are compared to standard values to determine the amount of blockage or narrowing of the arteries.
For a transcranial ultrasound, the transducer is passed lightly over the skin at the base or side of your skull.
The transducer is moved back and forth on your belly until the doctor finds the blood vessel that needs to be studied. After the doctor has found the blood vessel, it may take some time to check the blood flow.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference December 5, 2010|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology