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Finding the ideal handheld Doppler

How much do you need from your handheld Doppler machine? GPs compare some popular options.

Fetal heart monitors can be useful for both GPs and parents-to-be.

Handheld Doppler machines range from simple, affordable machines designed for use by expectant mothers at home to more expensive machines with advanced vascular capabilities, designed for use by physicians, surgeons, wound care clinics, GPs, podiatrists and other clinical specialists.

So which one should you choose? Do you require an obstetric, vascular or multipurpose model? Do you need printout capability? Is a waterproof option essential? We have put together this comparison, based on past reviews in GP, to help you make your decision.

Reviewed by Dr Jane Barnard, a GP in Yately, Hampshire

'The FD1 Fetal Dopplex I comes in a carry case with some ultrasound transmission gel, a gestational age calculator wheel and an easy-to-read manual.

I liked the gestational wheel because, as well as giving you the estimated date of delivery and duration of pregnancy calculated from the last menstrual period, it gives you a weight converter from kilograms to pounds and ounces.

The pocket Doppler was neat and easy to use. With the press of a button and accurate placing of the probe, the fetal heart sound can be picked up straight away, clearly and simply.

It calculates the baby's heart rate and displays it on a small screen.

In the operating manual it states that you can use this Doppler in early pregnancy, and that the expectant mum should have a full bladder to improve sound detection. My midwife told me it has all you could want in a fetal Doppler machine: it is simple to use, small and handy.

Sound transmission was free from too much static, and it can be used underwater, enabling use during a water birth.'

Reviewed by Dr Peter Standing, a GP in Bury, Greater Manchester

'The Sonicaid One can detect a baby's heart at 10 weeks. It has a small base unit with the probe on an extendable flex. The Doppler head has a broader beam, offering improved sensitivity for picking up heartbeats more easily, and so detecting them earlier.

The monitor is attractively designed with a probe that clips to the side of the main unit and the whole device is very compact and weighs only 230g.

Once batteries are inserted, place some ultrasonic gel on the spot where you would normally expect to hear the fetal heart, switch the machine on and apply the probe, gently varying its angle or position until the heart is clearly audible.

When the fetal heart is detected, the Sonicaid One will display the heart rate. Controls are simple, with buttons to increase or decrease volume and an optional switch to count the heart rate manually. Our midwives have also used the Sonicaid One, and quickly came to share my view that it is a delight to use.'

Reviewed by Dr Vasa Gnanapragasam, a GP in Sutton, Surrey

'The Multi Dopplex II is a bi-directional Doppler with advanced vascular and obstetric capabilities. It is smart, robust and has a built-in loudspeaker.

Special features include an LCD flow indicator, FHR display, and auto shut-off in three minutes to help prolong battery life. An active noise-reduction option is also available.

The three-year warranty and large carry bag make this Doppler worthy of serious consideration.

The Dopplex Reporter software package allows vascular studies to be saved in a patient's database and can also produce hard copies. This costs about £350.

There are five probes to choose from, but most of us need worry about only two: the EZ8, which uses wide-beam technology to locate and maintain vessel contact during inflation and deflation and the VP5HS, which uses narrow beams to detect deep-lying vessels in oedematous legs.

This is essential for the nurse who runs the ulcer clinic for calculating the ankle/brachial blood pressure index. The probes have to be purchased separately for about £200.

All in all, the Multi Dopplex has proved a worthy investment to help assess healthy patients as well as those with chronic disease.'

   FD1 Fetal Dopplex I Sonicaid OneMulti Dopplex II

Obstetric Doppler with LCD display of fetal heartrate,  heartbeat indicator and battery  condition

Small, lightweight, obstetric Doppler with fetal heart rate display and integrated probe with cable storage Advanced unit that provides advanced vascular and obstetric
WarrantyThree yearOne year Three year
  ProbeFixed 2MHz waterproof probe
Probe integratedProbe needs to be purchased
separately -
variety available
  Cost£372.48 incl VAT£357.50 incl VAT£467.65 incl VAT(probe not inc) (Probes: around £200; Software: Dopplex Reporter £351.33 incl VAT)

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