Doppler echocardiography is a procedure that uses ultrasound technology to examine the function of the heart and valves and blood flow through the heart. An echocardiogram uses high frequency sound waves to create an image of the heart while the use of Doppler technology allows determination of the speed and direction of blood flow by utilizing the Doppler effect.
An echocardiogram can, within certain limits, produce accurate assessment of the direction of blood flow, velocity of blood flow, and cardiac function. One of the limitations is that the ultrasound beam should be as parallel to the blood flow as possible. Velocity measurements allow assessment of cardiac valve areas and function, any abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart, any leaking of blood through the valves (valvular regurgitation), calculation of the cardiac output and calculation of E/A ratio (a measure of diastolic dysfunction). Contrast-enhanced ultrasound using gas-filled microbubble contrast media can be used to improve velocity or other flow-related medical measurements.
An advantage of Doppler echocardiography is that it can be used to measure blood flow within the heart without invasive procedures such as cardiac catheterisation. For example, left ventricular filling pressure can be estimated by Doppler ultrasound, although only under certain conditions.
This procedure is frequently used to examine children's hearts for heart disease because there is no age or size requirement.