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Deep Vein Thrombosis Health Center

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Doppler Ultrasound

How To Prepare

You may need to stop using products that contain nicotine (cigarettes, chewing tobacco) for 30 minutes to 2 hours before the test. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and may give false results.

How It Is Done

This test is done by a doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting imaging tests (radiologist) 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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