Arterial Doppler Study

What is an arterial Doppler study?

An arterial Doppler study is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to look at the blood flow in your arteries. High-frequency sound waves are sent into your blood vessels. A computer uses echoes of the ultrasound waves to show blood flow in your blood vessels. Fast blood flow usually means the artery is partially blocked.

When is it used?

The test is usually used to tell your healthcare provider if the artery in your neck that carries blood to the brain (the carotid artery) is partially blocked. Blockage of the carotid artery may put you at high risk of having a stroke. The test is also used to check the blood flow through your leg arteries. Blockage in the blood vessels in the legs may cause pain in your legs when you walk. Sometimes the test is used on a blood vessel in the arm to check how the blood vessels in your body are working.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

No special preparation is necessary.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure usually lasts about 45 minutes.

You will lie on a table and a technologist will put clear jelly on your skin over various arteries. This helps the Doppler sensor slide around easily. Clear jelly also helps the sensor send sound waves through your skin. Some probes are placed flat against the skin, while smaller tipped probes are held at angle.

A normal artery sounds like it has several “beats” each time the heart pumps blood through the artery. The first sound occurs when the heart squeezes blood through the arteries. The following beats are lower in pitch and are due to differences in blood speed within the artery. This may be due to valve problems, poor flexibility of the arterial wall, or blockage. Hearing multiple beats suggests that there is no major blockage near the Doppler site. On the other hand, a Doppler signal that lacks multiple beats and is of lower pitch indicates a problem.

What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure, you can go home and go back to your normal activities.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

There is no risk with this procedure.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-08-08
Last reviewed: 2013-06-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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