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Doppler Can Be Used For More Than Checking Weather

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Renal Doppler
RALEIGH, N.C. — Storms on TV are more vivid these days thanks to Doppler radar. The same technology can also reveal things inside the body.

Patrick Washko, a vascular lab coordinator at Rex Hospital, uses Doppler mixed with ultrasound to look at blood flow to the kidneys.

"When you have a narrowing within a blood vessel, it's going to be harder for that blood to go through that narrowing. Thus, the velocity of that blood is going to go up," he said.

Cynthia Tyson had that problem four years ago, but she did not know it. She just felt bad.

"I felt very tired, rundown, light-headed and my heart felt like it was surging," Tyson said.

Tyson had sudden high blood pressure, and her doctor referred her to Rex Hospital for renal doppler. Renal or kidney artery blockage accounts for 1 to 2 percent of all high blood pressure. X-rays can also reveal the problem, but you need contrast dye in the blood stream to see it. Health officials said that is the disadvantage where kidneys are concerned.

"You have to inject contrast, and if you already have a kidney problem, the contrast could further damage the kidneys," said Dr. Wayne Smith, vascular lab coordinator at Rex Hospital.

Renal doppler showed Tyson had fibro-muscular dysplasia -- a type of renal artery blockage most common in women. A catheter-guided balloon opened the blocked area.

"That truly helped. My blood pressure went down, and I'm no longer on blood pressure medication," she said.

Health officials said it takes a highly trained eye to interpret the doppler images. Primary care physicians should refer you to medical centers that specialize in the screening.


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