Doppler sonography is a more specialized form of ultrasound used to collect images of the heart and vascular system. What’s special about a Doppler ultrasound is that it reveals the direction and speed of blood flow throughout the cardiovascular system. Ultrasonography comprises the act of sending sound waves to the body’s target area and receiving echoes in return. Doppler sonography is based on detecting changes in pitch of these sound waves which signifies movement. There are Pulse Wave, Continuous Wave and Color Doppler ultrasounds. Color Doppler sonography allows for clearer, real-time images of blood flow to be presented up on the ultrasound monitor.
There are numerous purposes for carrying out Doppler ultrasounds. For example, they are effective at detecting blocked or narrowed blood vessels and blood clots, monitoring blood flow after an organ transplant, assessing blood flow after a stroke, monitoring blood flow to a fetus via the umbilical cord and diagnosing problems such as diastolic heart failure, valvular heart disease and peripheral arterial disease.
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Doppler sonography is employed as part of an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and as part of ultrasounds of the vascular system (blood vessels peripheral to the heart). The ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) is a leading organization that certifies medical sonographers. It offers certification exams in both Echocardiography and Vascular Technology. Those who successfully complete the examinations, earn a credential either as a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer or a Registered Vascular Technologist. While credentials are not always required, most healthcare facilities prefer all employees to be certified sonographers. To write an ARDMS exam, you must have completed an ultrasound degree or program (or a health-related program in addition to completing relevant, clinical experience).
A Doppler ultrasound machine comes equipped with software and hardware capable of presenting various imaging capabilities. The monitor/keyboard component is connected to a transducer or probe that the sonographer holds at various angles on top of the chest region of their patients. It is this transducer that generates the sound waves. A Doppler machine also has an audio output that generates sounds based on the pitch changes of the sound waves. If performing a Doppler ultrasound as part of an echocardiogram, electrode pads are also placed on the patient’s chest.
Doppler ultrasounds are performed on both pediatric and adult patients. A Doppler sonographer should be prepared to explain the procedure to each and every patient. There might be some discomfort during a Doppler ultrasound, since the sonographer sometimes has to apply a little pressure to the probe; the sonographer should create an environment where the patient feels comfortable speaking up if he or she is in pain. The patient may have questions or wish to seek clarification, particularly when they hear the sounds generated from the Doppler audio output; sonographers must be prepared to answer any inquiries their patients may have.