Doppler test: when is it needed and how to request it?

When a pathology affecting the veins or arteries is suspected, but also as a preventive measure, reference is usually made to a very reliable and precise diagnostic test: the Doppler examination

Today we will take a look at what this test is, what it consists of, when it should be requested and to investigate which pathologies, but also how it is performed.

Doppler test, what exactly is it?

The Doppler test, also known as ecodoppler or Doppler ultrasound, is a non-invasive diagnostic technique, therefore risk-free and with a fairly low management cost, which does, however, make it possible to detect, with good precision (except for a few rare cases that we will see later on), problems concerning veins and arteries.

This test can therefore be used to analyse blood flows in arterial and venous vessels in order to check their condition.

But let’s look at a few more details on how this type of diagnostic test works.

Let’s start by saying that the echodoppler has been used for some thirty years now and has marked a real revolution in this field.

Today we have more sophisticated equipment that allows us to carry out a Doppler test at home, just like a cardiac holter monitoring, a pressure holter and can be booked just like a normal ultrasound scan at home.

The Doppler effect

The Doppler diagnostic test is based on the Doppler effect: in practice, if you direct a sound towards a moving body, it bounces back producing another sound.

Put in more technical terms, the speed of blood flow can be detected by the reflection of an ultrasound signal that is emitted by an external probe placed on a blood vessel.

By means of the sound waves produced, we can tell whether the blood flow is being obstructed by constrictions or whether there is turbulence due to atherosclerosis processes.

In addition to sound waves, ultrasound is also used to detect the morphology of the blood vessels.

There is then a further variant of this test, the echocolordoppler, which differs from the previous one in that it is stained with a contrast liquid, which makes it possible to highlight even more defined details of the blood flow.

What the Doppler test detects

Thanks to this test, the doctor is able to detect various information about venous and arterial blood flow.

For example, with regard to their morphology, he can know their degree of patency, or the presence of irregularities in the walls or the degree of possible occlusion, stenosis, or even malformations.

Thus, the test serves to detect these problems and to define their degree of severity, so that effective action can be taken, and has practically replaced far more invasive tests such as phlebography and arteriography.

How the Doppler test is performed

As we said before, it is a non-invasive test that can be performed in most cases with excellent diagnostic results.

The preparation is not complex, it should be performed with the patient generally lying down, unless the doctor decides that for that particular case it is better to perform the test while seated.

The temperature of the room where the test is carried out is important: whether in an outpatient clinic or at home, the environment must have a suitable temperature; if it is too cold, the diagnosis may be more difficult due to vasoconstriction.

Once ready, the specialist simply moves the ultrasound probe over the part to be examined after spreading the appropriate gel, exactly as with an ultrasound scan.

Usually the test can take about twenty minutes depending on the area to be examined and the patient’s condition.

We mentioned earlier that there are some cases in which the ecodoppler does not give optimal results.

This happens when not all the blood vessels can be perfectly visualised and it can happen when examining patients with a high degree of obesity or overweight, or with significant oedemas, but also when the blood vessels are located next to tissues with a high calcium content that can hinder the correct passage of the signal.

So if it is a problematic patient, the test may take longer.

The doctor will eventually determine whether further tests are necessary.

When the test is needed

The doctor’s reasons for requesting this specific test are varied.

It is usually requested for problems related to venous and arterial pathologies.

In the first case, for example, pathologies such as thrombophlebitis, venous thrombosis, venous insufficiency are looked for.

With regard to arterial pathologies, on the other hand, the test is often requested to detect problems following stroke, haemorrhage, ischaemic attacks.

The aortic ecodoppler, for example, is used to assess the state of the aorta and is requested if there is a familiarity with these problems or following the onset of symptoms related to aortic problems.

The ecodoppler can also be performed to assess the state of the renal, meneteric, and lower limb arteries.

Its use in the prevention and assessment of the risk of vascular pathologies is also fundamental, and this is required when there is a family history or suspicion of such pathologies.

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