Similar to an echocardiogram, a Doppler ultrasound (or Doppler echocardiography) is a test in which very high frequency sound waves are bounced off your heart and blood vessels. The returning sound waves (echoes) are picked up and turned into pictures showing blood flow through the arteries or the heart itself. Doppler ultrasound testing allows doctors to clearly see how blood flows through the heart and blood vessels. It also lets them see and measure obstructions in arteries and measure the degree of narrowing or leakage of heart valves. It may be recommended for patients with atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. It is used to assess blood flow through the coronary arteries (the blood vessels supplying the heart), the carotid artery (the main artery in the neck), the major arteries in the arms and legs, or in the heart itself (echocardiography).

What to expect

A Doppler ultrasound test is usually done in a clinic. A special gel is rubbed on the part of the body being tested to improve sound quality. Then, a transducer (a hand-held instrument that transmits sound waves) is held against your skin while images of the blood vessels are recorded. The test takes about 30 minutes and is painless.

How to prepare

There is usually no need to restrict foods or fluids, or to make any special preparations before a Doppler ultrasound test. Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. It is best to check with the centre where you are having your test for specific information about how to prepare.