Doppler Ultrasound
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Doppler Ultrasound

(Doppler Ultrasonography)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A Doppler ultrasound is a procedure that uses sound waves to examine various parts of the body.

Parts of the Body Involved

A Doppler ultrasound may be used to examine the following:

  • Aorta and other abdominal arteries and veins
  • Blood vessels in extremities (arms and legs)
  • Blood vessels in extracranial cerebrovascular system (eg, in the neck)
  • Blood flow to the pelvic organs and fetal vessels (especially during high-risk pregnancy)

Major Abdominal Arteries and Veins

Aorta and Vena Cava

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

Doppler ultrasound is used to:

  • View abnormal flow of blood through vessels and/or the heart
  • View and evaluate blockages to blood flow, such as clots
  • Assess build-up of plaque inside the vessel
  • Monitor people who have had arterial reconstruction and bypass grafts
  • Examine a fetus during high-risk pregnancy

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

There are no known risks to Doppler ultrasound. The usefulness of the Doppler test may be limited if the view of internal organs and blood vessels is obstructed by:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

When making your appointment, ask about instructions. They may include:

  • Wearing comfortable loose-fitting clothes, although you may be asked to change into a gown.
  • To reduce the amount of air in your intestines, fasting for 8-12 hours before the procedure if your abdomen is the area to be examined.
  • Drinking several glasses of water prior to the ultrasound if your uterus is the area to be examined. A full bladder pushes the uterus up out of the pelvic area, which helps display a better view. Fluids in a full bladder also allow better transmission of the sound waves.

In addition, smoking may interfere with results of Doppler ultrasounds of blood vessels, since nicotine constricts blood vessels.

During Procedure

Lie flat on an examining table. The room will be dark to allow the images to be seen well on the video screen.



Description of the Procedure

The doctor or technician will rub gel over the area of the body to be examined (eg, abdomen, leg). The gel helps the technician to slide the transducer (a wand-like instrument) over your skin. When the transducer slides over your skin, it conducts transmitting sound waves that are reflected or refracted back to the ultrasound probe or transducer. The specific characteristics of the object are then converted into an image on a video screen. You may be asked to change positions to allow the technician to examine different blood vessels or areas of the body. You may also be asked to perform breathing exercises as measurements are taken to vary blood flow during the exam.

Ultrasound of Abdomen

Nucleus factsheet image

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

After Procedure

You should clean gel off of your skin.

How Long Will It Take?

The procedure typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

No. An ultrasound procedure is painless, though you may feel pressure from the transducer.

Possible Complications


Average Hospital Stay


Postoperative Care

Unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider, resume normal activities.


After the procedure, a doctor trained in radiology will examine the images. Your primary doctor will advise you of the results and any treatment recommendations.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

  • Your symptoms worsen.


American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

American College of Radiology and The Radiological Society of North America


Health Canada

Health Sciences Centre


Lewis JA. Illustrated Guide to Diagnostic Tests . Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation; 1994.

Medical encyclopedia: ultrasound. Medline Plus website. Available at: . Accessed October 14, 2005.

RadiologyInfo. American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) website. Available at: . Accessed October 14, 2005.

Last reviewed November 2007 by J. Peter Oettgen, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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