I keep having funny turns, and my doctor has ordered a ‘dopple’ test on the arteries in my neck. What will this involve?
What your doctor has ordered is a doppler ultrasound.
When listening to a fast-moving vehicle approaching you, its engine noise changes pitch as the vehicle passes you and moves away. This change in the pitch of a sound due to movement is known as the doppler effect. This same effect can be used to measure the movement of fluids (such as blood) within the body.
Using a blunt probe that is placed against the skin, a high pitched sound wave (ultrasound) is passed into the body, and the reflection of the sound wave from stationary tissue and moving blood is measured and compared. In this way, the rate at which the blood is flowing can be determined. The carotid artery in the neck is commonly one to be examined to see if there is any blockage or narrowing that may be responsible for your funny turns, but other arteries near the surface of the body (eg. in the groin) may also be checked to see if there is any blockage of the blood flow caused by a clot or build-up of a cholesterol plaque.
There is absolutely no discomfort to the patient during the procedure, it is completely safe, and you only have to lie still for a few minutes.
What is the test done to see if you have thin bones in old age?
Quite often osteoporosis (thin bones) can be seen on a plain X-ray of major bones, but there is also a specific test known as dual photon densitometry scan.
The density of bone can be ascertained from the amount of mineral contained in it. This type of scan is able to measure the mineral content of bone and is a way of diagnosing the onset of osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. The machine is called an osteodensitometer. The whole body, or just the forearm of a patient can be tested.
In a whole body scan, the patient lies on a bed with a flat plate underneath as a (very mild) source of radiation, and a long-armed scanner then moves slowly down the body emitting photon beams which can determine the density of the tissue they are passing through. The procedure takes about half an hour and is completely painless.
A bone scan cannot necessarily predict osteoporosis in normal people, but is very useful for high-risk subjects or people who already have signs of osteoporosis, so that remedial treatment such as medications to replace the lost calcium, hormone replacement therapy and calcium supplements can be administered.
Dual photon densitometry costs are not rebateable under Medicare except in very specific circumstances.