What is an Arterial Doppler?
Doppler ultrasounds are used to examine many different parts of the body. Here at our cardiovascular office, one of the most common ways we use a doppler ultrasound is to examine patients’ arteries.
An arterial doppler scan may be used to examine ultra-important arteries like those that connect to the heart, lungs, and brain, and it can also be used on the arteries inside the feet, legs, hips, abdomen, and arms as well. There are more than twenty major arteries in the human body.
Human ears are not capable of detecting ultrasound waves like those used in an arterial doppler. Still, they’re just sound waves. That’s why it’s safe to use ultrasound waves during prenatal checkups. Just like the brain of a dolphin, the computer attached to the ultrasound wand creates an image based on the tiniest echoes that the sound waves cause. Then your cardiologist or vascular specialist can see where your arteries contain hardened plaque, if you have a blood clot, or where the arteries have been damaged.
Why do I need an Arterial Doppler?
Your doctor has found decreased circulation in at least one of your limbs or in your neck. Now, a vascular specialist needs to find the cause of the decreased circulation. There are several possible causes:
- Superficial Thrombosis: a blood clot has formed inside a vein near the surface of the skin, sometimes causing pain, itching, or swelling. This is not a life-threatening condition, however, those who suffer from a Superficial Thrombosis have an increased risk of other, more dangerous circulation problems.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): a blood clot has formed inside a vein deep inside your hip or leg. This is a much more serious condition than Superficial Thrombosis, because the clot is capable of breaking away and getting lodged in the pulmonary artery (which connects to the lungs) or the carotid artery (which connects to the brain).
- Arteriosclerosis: a buildup of fat and cholesterol (and tobacco byproduct, if you smoke) has hardened and turned to plaque inside your arteries. This narrows the path inside the artery, making it more difficult for blood to move through it. Plaque also makes the artery less flexible, which means normal movement could cause damage to the artery.
- Vascular Tumors: there is a growth inside one or more of your arteries. These tumors are sometimes cancerous, but usually they are not. A tumor will not break away and get lodged in the carotid artery. However, if it’s blocking blood flow, the tumor will have to be removed.
- Thromboangiitis Obliterans, also known as Buerger Disease: the blood vessels in your hands and feet have become inflamed. This rare disease is seen almost exclusively in tobacco users.
What are the Risks of an Arterial Doppler?
An arterial doppler scan, like all scans that use ultrasound waves, is completely non-toxic, non-invasive, and painless. Your vascular doctor can use this type of test as often as necessary. It’s so safe it can be performed on newborn and unborn babies.