Understanding the spectral Doppler waveform of the hepatic veins in health and disease

Radiographics. 2009 Nov;29(7):2081-98. doi: 10.1148/rg.297095715.


Duplex Doppler sonography is a fundamental component of the complete ultrasonographic examination of the liver. Accurate interpretation of the spectral Doppler tracing from the hepatic veins is valuable, as it reflects important cardiac and hepatic physiology. Normally, there are four phases: A, S, V, and D; the S and D waves indicate flow in the antegrade direction toward the heart. In hepatic and cardiac disease, these normal waves may be absent, a finding indicative of flow in a nonphysiologic manner. In addition, transient patient factors such as phase of the respiratory cycle may influence the appearance of the spectral tracing. Familiarity with the normal and abnormal spectral Doppler waveforms from the hepatic veins and knowledge of their respective physiology and pathophysiology provide valuable insights. Systematic analysis of the direction, regularity, and phasicity of the spectral tracing and the ratio of the amplitudes of the S and D waves allows one to arrive at the correct differential diagnosis in most situations.

MeSH terms

  • Hepatic Veins / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Phlebography / methods*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex / methods*
  • Vascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*