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A Doppler ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to measure the amount of blood flow through your arteries and veins, usually those that supply blood to your arms and legs. Vascular flow studies, also known as blood flow studies, can detect abnormal flow within an artery or blood vessel.

In addition to finding clots, Doppler ultrasound can be used to:

  • Check blood flow in your veins, arteries, and heart to test for problems such as peripheral artery disease (which affects your legs, arms, stomach, and head)
  • Look for plaque build-up or blocked arteries
  • See how blood vessels heal after treatment
  • Test for a bulging weakness in your arteries, which is called an aneurysm

When it’s done on your belly, it can help find:

  • Blood flow problems with your liver, kidneys, pancreas, or spleen
  • Unusual growths in your belly, such as tumors

It can also be used to check on blood flow to your baby during pregnancy.

Method of testing

Generally, it helps to wear loose-fitting clothes to the test, though your doctor may ask you to change into a gown. Also, you may want to leave jewelry at home, since you’ll have to remove it from any area to be tested.

If you’re getting the test for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or other issues in your legs, you won’t need to do anything else.

For a Doppler ultrasound on your belly, your doctor may tell you to fast for 6 to 12 hours before the test. That means you won’t be able to eat or drink anything during that time. You’ll only be able to drink a small amount of water to take your regular medicines.

For women getting a pelvic Doppler ultrasound, you’ll have to drink water 1 hour before the exam. You need to have a full bladder for the test to be effective.

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