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What Is Doppler Gel?

Doppler gel is smeared on a woman's abdomen during an ultrasound.
Doppler gel may be colorless.
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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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Doppler gel, also commonly known as ultrasound gel, is the substance used to lubricate an instrument called a transducer, or camera, during an ultrasound procedure. Ultrasound is a medical imaging procedure that utilizes sound waves to capture images and internal body structures. Doppler gel is squirted on the surface of the body part being imaged, allowing the technician to effortlessly glide the transducer across the body without friction.

Usually, the consistency of doppler gel is determined by the sonographer. The consistency of the gel does not affect the image quality. The gel can be of thick or thin consistency and may be colorless, blue, or green. The one quality of doppler gel that many patients remember is that it is very cold when squirted onto the body. Most times, the professional ultrasound technician will warn the patient of the gel's coldness beforehand, so he knows what to expect. Some institutions have gel warmers that can raise the temperature of the substance before it is applied to the patient, thereby decreasing the sudden jolt of the cold gel.

Generally, aside from being cold, ultrasound gel is not an uncomfortable component to the medical imaging procedure. Once applied to the skin, it stays in place, without dripping. The doppler gel will remain on the surface of the skin until it is physically removed when the ultrasound procedure has ended.

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In addition to providing a hospitable transducer surface, doppler gel also eliminates air that may be between the transducer and the skin so the ultrasound, or soundwaves, may move freely. Typically, ultrasounds are unable to ascertain structures when they are close to the skin's surface. When a thick layer of doppler gel is applied, it allows ample distance from the camera to the structure, which allows for a more acute image.

Ultrasound imaging is frequently used in obstetrics to obtain images of the developing fetus. This procedure is considered safe because it doesn't use ionizing radiation to capture fetal images. Just as ultrasonography is considered safe during pregnancy, so is ultrasound gel. When the gel is applied to the maternal abdomen, it may be absorbed into her skin. Fortunately, doppler gel has been deemed safe and non-toxic to both the mother and baby.

Ultrasound gel is also used in conjunction with a fetal doppler, which is a device that allows parents to hear their unborn baby's heartbeat. A doppler, like the ultrasound, uses soundwaves to capture sounds. The same gel is used whether the patient is undergoing ultrasound imaging or fetal doppler studies.

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