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.
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.
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
- 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.
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- Date of last review: December 28, 2016
- Author: Lea Alhilali, MD