Healthcare providers use Doppler ultrasound to detect heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) problems. The test shows the direction and speed of blood moving through arteries and veins. It can identify blood clots, narrowed arteries and other problems that affect the heart and blood vessels in the legs, arms and stomach.
A Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of blood moving through your circulatory system. The images show the direction and speed of blood as it flows through your arteries or veins. They also show blood flow through your heart.
Ultrasound, also called sonography or ultrasonography, is a noninvasive imaging test. A standard ultrasound produces images, but it doesn’t show blood flow like a Doppler ultrasound.
The different types of Doppler ultrasounds include:
Healthcare providers use Doppler ultrasound to:
Providers use Doppler ultrasound to diagnose:
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The ultrasound probe sends sound waves into your body. The sound waves bounce off of moving blood cells in blood vessels and go back to the probe to be detected. The computer looks at the change in pitch (low or high sounds) between the sound waves sent into your body and the echo (sound that bounced back) to figure out the direction of blood flow and how fast the blood is moving.
This information provides information about:
Depending on the type of ultrasound and the reason for the test, you may need to:
A sonographer, a specialist in ultrasound imaging technology, performs this test. The test may take 30 to 60 minutes.
Depending on the reason for the test, you may lie on your back or side on an exam table, or you may sit up.
During the test:
A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive, low-risk test. It doesn’t require injectable contrast dyes like an angiogram or use radiation like X-rays or CT scans. Ultrasounds aren’t harmful or painful. They’re safe enough for providers to use on someone who is pregnant.
Your healthcare provider or a radiologist, a medical doctor who specializes in medical imaging, will review the test results. It may take a week to get the results.
Depending on the results, you may need more tests. The health condition will determine what additional tests you get.
Before getting a Doppler ultrasound test, you may want to ask your provider:
The Doppler ultrasound is named for Christian Doppler, a 19th-century physicist who discovered a way to measure sound waves reflected from moving objects. This is known as the Doppler effect.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A Doppler ultrasound is a safe, painless way for healthcare providers to assess the health of blood vessels and check for cardiovascular problems. A Doppler ultrasound provides important information about blood flow through your circulatory system. This information can help your provider screen for diseases, diagnose a problem and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/12/2022.
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