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A Doppler ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to measure the amount of blood flow through your arteries and veins. It helps doctors assess and check blocked or reduced blood flow through major arteries and veins, such as those of the arms, legs, and neck. The test also can find blood clots in leg veins (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) that could break loose and block blood flow to the lungs. During pregnancy, Doppler ultrasound may be used to look at blood flow in an unborn baby to check the baby's health.

During Doppler ultrasound, a handheld device called transducer is passed lightly over the skin above a blood vessel. It sends and receives sound waves that are amplified through a microphone. The sound waves bounce off solid objects, including blood cells. The movement of blood cells causes a change in the pitch of the reflected sound waves. This is called the Doppler effect. If there is no blood flow, the pitch does not change. Information from the reflected sound waves is used to make graphs or pictures that show the flow of blood through the blood vessels. These graphs or pictures are saved and evaluated.

Color Doppler uses standard ultrasound methods to make a picture of a blood vessel. A computer changes the Doppler sounds into colors that are overlaid on the image of the blood vessel. These colors show the speed and direction of blood flow through the vessel. 

A Doppler ultrasound test uses reflected sound waves to see how blood flows through a blood vessel. Doppler is done to helps doctors assess the blood flow through major arteries and veins. A reduced amount of blood flow may be due to a blockage in the artery, a blood clot inside a blood vessel, or an injury to a blood vessel. Doppler is mainly done to:

  • Find blood clots and blocked or narrowed blood vessels in almost any part of the body. It's most often used for the neck, arms, and legs. Abnormal blood flow patterns, including narrowing or closing of the arteries, can indicate:
    • blockage in the arteries, which may be due to a buildup of cholesterol
    • blood clots in a vein or artery
    • poor circulation, which can be caused by damaged blood vessels
    • venous occlusion, or closing of a vein
    • spastic arterial disease, a condition in which the arteries contract due to stress or exposure to cold weather
    • blockage or clots in an artificial bypass graft
  • Check leg pain that may be caused by intermittent claudication. This is a condition caused by atherosclerosis of the lower limbs.
  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body (usually in the leg or hip regions)
  • Assess blood flow after a stroke or other condition that might be caused by a problem with blood flow.
  • Check for varicose veins or other vein problems.
  • Map veins that may be used for blood vessel grafts. It also can look at the health of grafts used to bypass blockage in an arm or leg.
  • Find out the amount of blood flow to a transplanted kidney or liver.
  • Monitor the flow of blood after blood vessel surgery.
  • A Doppler ultrasound can help determine the blood pressure within your arteries. It can also show how much blood is currently flowing through your arteries and veins.
  • Find the presence, amount and location of arterial plaque. Plaque in the carotid arteries can reduce blood flow to the brain. This may increase the risk of stroke.
  • Guide treatment such as laser or radiofrequency ablation of abnormal veins.

Check the health of a foetus. It may check blood flow in the umbilical cord, through the placenta or in the heart and brain of the foetus. This test can show if the foetus is getting enough oxygen and nutrients. 

A venous Doppler ultrasound is a diagnostic test used to check the circulation in the large veins in the legs (or sometimes the arms) for any blockage in the veins by a blood clot or thrombus formation.

An arterial doppler is an ultrasound exam of the arteries located in your arms or legs. High frequency sound waves are used to obtain images of structures inside the body. Ultrasound imaging can help the radiologist see and evaluate arterial blockages, such as plaque in arteries.

Ultrasound is performed to create a "map" of your leg veins for the surgeon in preparation for various procedures that will include bypass graft surgery (replacing diseased vessels in your body with the healthy vein from your leg).

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