What is an arterial doppler? An arterial doppler is an ultrasound test that measures the amount of blood flow through the arteries using sound waves. The test can help diagnose blood clots, poorly functioning valves, blocked arteries, circulation problems, etc. Your physician may order the test for your upper extremities (arms) or lower extremities (legs).
Why might your doctor ask for this test? The test may be suggested if your physician notices decreased blood flow in the arteries of the arms and/or legs. The reduced blood flow may be due to blockage of the arteries, a blood clot, or an injury. Your doctor may order the test if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Arteriosclerosis: narrowing and hardening of the arteries
- Thromboangiitis obliterans: a rare disease in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet become inflamed
- Vascular tumors in the arms or legs
How should I prepare? If you are a smoker, your physician may ask that you stop smoking for a few hours before the exam because smoking causes the blood vessels to narrow, which will affect the test results. Otherwise, there are no special dietary or medicinal restrictions that need to be followed. It is advised to wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove and to bring a list of all medications you are currently taking. Avoid wearing jewelry on the day of the exam.
How is the test performed? Your healthcare provider will ask for you to lay on an examination table. A gel will be placed on the ultrasound wand, known as a transducer. A blood pressure cuff will be placed on various points along your arm if the test is being performed for issues with your upper extremities. If the issue lies within your lower extremities, the blood pressure cuff will be placed along your thigh, calf, or ankle. In certain cases, the physician performing the lower extremities doppler may place you on a treadmill. The transducer will then be placed and moved around the part of the body being studied to collect images of the arteries. The test takes approximately an hour to complete.
Results: Once the test images are analyzed and given to your physician, they will go over any additional tests and treatments you may need.