Carotid Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (X-ray). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels. Ultrasound imaging is usually a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

An ultrasound of the body's two carotid arteries, which are located on each side of the neck and carry blood from the heart to the brain, provide detailed pictures of these blood vessels.

What are common uses of the procedure?

The carotid ultrasound is most frequently performed to detect narrowing, or stenosis, of the carotid artery, a condition that substantially increases the risk of stroke.

Other risk factors calling for a carotid ultrasound are:

  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Elevated blood cholesterol
  • A family history of stroke or heart disease

A carotid ultrasound is also performed to:

  • Locate a hematoma, a collection of clotted blood that may slow and eventually stop blood flow
  • Detect dissection of the carotid artery, a split between layers of the artery wall that may lead to obstruction of blood flow or weakening of the wall of the artery
  • Check the state of the carotid artery after surgery to restore normal blood flow
  • Verify the position of a mental stent placed to maintain carotid blood flow
  • How does the procedure work?
  • How is the procedure performed?
  • How should I prepare for the procedure?
  • What are the benefits vs risks?
  • What will I experience during and after the procedure?
  • Who interprets the results and how do I get them?