One of the most useful types of technology for looking at a patient’s veins is the venous Doppler procedure. Doctors perform it on an outpatient basis at either a vascular clinic or a radiology facility.
Overview of This Vein Testing
A Doppler procedure uses ultrasound to examine blood vessels and help create a treatment plan. According to MedlinePlus, it is an initial diagnostic step and carries no risk.
This test utilizes sound waves to create pictures of targeted veins. It can produce images of tissue in various body locations. Doppler ultrasound allows a physician to evaluate blood flow through vessels in the abdomen, legs, neck, arms, brain, liver, kidneys, or other organs.
RadiologyInfo cites these most common uses:
- Searching for blood clots, particularly in the legs
- Determining a reason such as varicose veins for long-term swelling in a leg
- Placing a catheter or a needle in a vein
- Mapping veins in a limb prior to treatment
- Looking at a blood vessel graft used during dialysis
- Evaluating congenital malformations of veins and arteries
Doppler technology also allows physicians to identify tumors, narrowing of blood vessels, and abnormal blood flow to organs.
What to Expect at an Appointment
Vein testing during a Doppler ultrasound procedure involves using two pieces of equipment while a patient lies on a movable exam table. A console holds a computer, other electronic components, and a video screen. A transducer is a hand-held device that looks like a microphone and that attaches to a scanner with a cord.
A typical test takes up to half an hour. A staff member applies a clear gel to the patient’s skin. The transducer sends out high-frequency sound waves into the targeted area. The technology then awaits echoes from the body’s tissue much like sonar works in submarines.
A physician is able to immediately see an ultrasound image on the video screen. It is a composite of the loudness, pitch, and time required for an ultrasound signal to travel from the body to the transducer. The type of body structure and the makeup of the body tissue through which the signal travels are important factors.
As sound waves bounce off blood vessels, the transducer records extremely small alterations in the pitch and direction. The physician conducting the test sees the resulting waves as real-time images displayed on the screen of the console.
Doppler technology is particularly useful for evaluating veins because it measures both the speed and the direction of blood cells while they travel through vessels. Cell movement creates pitch changes in reflected sound waves that appear as color pictures or graphs depicting how blood flows through a vein.
This procedure is usually painless and well tolerated, though some patients report feeling pressure as the healthcare professional moves the transducer across the body.