Sometimes, doctors find a way to use technology that hits all the right notes -- it's easy on your body, gives fast results, and doesn't cause any side effects. That's just the case with Doppler ultrasound, which gives doctors a way to see what's going on inside your body without X-rays or injections.
It's one of the main ways to test for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) -- a condition where blood clotsform in veins deep in your body, usually in your legs. DVT can lead to more serious problems, such as a clot in your lungs. It can be life-threatening. So it's important to get tested if you have symptoms.
If you have symptoms of DVT, such as swelling or pain in your leg, your doctor may use Doppler ultrasound to see what's going on. The images show where blood slows down or stops, which could mean you have a clot.
Doppler ultrasound is very effective in a lot of cases, but it's not good at finding clots in your pelvis or the small blood vessels in your calf.
In addition to finding clots, Doppler ultrasound can be used to:
When it's done on your belly, it can help find:
You will lie on a table, usually on your back. Your doctor or a technician will rub a gel on the area to be tested. This helps the sound waves travel and gives you better results.
Next, they will press a small device against your skin. It looks like a microphone or a wand.
As they move the device around, it sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your blood cells, organs, and other body parts, then back to the device. You'll feel some pressure from the device, but unless you have tenderness, it won't hurt.
A computer takes all the sound waves and turns them into moving images that you can see live on a screen. Once the test is done, you wipe the gel from your body, and you're all set. It usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
You can get results from a Doppler ultrasound very quickly. Sometimes, the person who runs the test is trained to do ultrasounds but isn't a doctor. Even then, the images are available right away for your doctor to review.
This test is very safe, painless, and doesn't use radiation.
Your doctor will let you know what all the images mean. If you had the test done to check for DVT, they will tell you what the images show about your blood flow and tell you the next steps to take.
If you do have a clot, you may have more than one Doppler ultrasound over a few days to see whether the clot grows or any new ones show up.