Carotid Artery Ultrasound
A carotid artery ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of the neck's carotid arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain. A carotid artery ultrasound is used to evaluate a patient's risk of stroke by checking for artery-narrowing plaque build-up.
In general, candidates for carotid artery ultrasound are those who have exam evidence of carotid artery blockage (a carotid "bruit") or who have recently had a stroke, transient ischemic attack ("TIA" or "mini-stroke") or who have had prior carotid artery surgery or stenting. Patients at increased risk for carotid artery disease include those who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, or have a family history of heart disease or history of smoking.
During the ultrasound procedure, the patient lies face up on a table, and ultrasound gel is applied to both sides of the neck over each artery's location. A transducer is moved over the arteries to obtain ultrasound images which are displayed on a computer screen. Doppler interrogation allows measurement of the velocity of the blood flow through the artery which correlates with the severity of the narrowing.
A carotid artery ultrasound is performed in a doctor's office, and usually takes less than 30 minutes. There are no risks associated with a carotid artery ultrasound, and patients can return to their regular activities immediately afterward.