This test uses sound waves to examine parts of the body. It specifically looks at fluid motion in the blood vessels.

Major Abdominal Arteries and Veins

Aorta and Vena Cava
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Reasons for Test

Doppler ultrasound is used to:

  • View abnormal flow of blood through vessels and/or the heart
  • View and evaluate blockages to blood flow, such as clots
  • Assess build-up of plaque inside a vessel
  • Monitor blood flow through repaired blood vessels, like bypass grafts
  • Examine a baby during a high-risk pregnancy

Possible Complications

In most cases, there are no complications with this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your doctor may do the following:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood or urine tests

In some cases your doctor may instruct you to:

  • Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in your intestines and make organs easier to see.
  • Have a full bladder before the test. You may need to drink six or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.
  • Avoid smoking, because it can interfere with test results.

Description of the Test

You will lie on a table. Your doctor will put a gel on the skin over the area that is to be examined. The gel helps the sound waves travel between the machine and your body.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted to images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. He may make a photograph of them as well.

You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.

Ultrasound of Abdomen

Nucleus factsheet image
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

After Test

The gel will be cleaned from your body. In most cases, you will be able to return to normal activities.

How Long Will It Take?

About 20-30 minutes

Will It Hurt?



After the test, a radiologist will examine the images. Your doctor will advise you of the results and talk to you about treatment.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if symptoms become worse.

In case of emergency, call 911.