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Carotid Ultrasound

A carotid ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that uses sound waves to create images of the carotid arteries in the neck, which deliver blood from the heart to the brain.

During a carotid ultrasound, a smooth probe is slowly moved up and down the neck to trace the arteries, measure blood flow, and look for abnormalities or blockages.

What is Carotid Ultrasound used for?

A carotid ultrasound is usually performed to determine if there is an abnormality or a blockage of the carotid arteries that could lead to ischemic stroke. A carotid ultrasound may also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a surgical procedure, such as a carotid endarterectomy to remove a blockage or an angioplasty to widen a narrowed artery.

Am I a good candidate for Carotid Ultrasound?

You may be a good candidate for a carotid ultrasound if you have symptoms of carotid artery disease or if you have any of the following stroke risk factors:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in blood vessels), heart disease, or stroke
  • Recent transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke
  • Abnormal sound in your carotid arteries (bruit), which is detected with a stethoscope
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Unhealthy weight

Early detection of a blockage or an abnormality of the carotid arteries can decrease your risk for stroke.

Medically Reviewed by Lea Alhilali, MD on January 13, 2020