Carotid Ultrasound

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, provides detailed pictures of these blood vessels and information about the blood flowing through them.

A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of a carotid ultrasound examination.

Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood velocity as it flows through a blood vessel, including the body's major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck.

Common Uses of Carotid Ultrasound

The major goal of carotid ultrasound is to screen patients for blockage or narrowing of their carotid arteries, which if present may increase their risk of having a stroke. Once the diagnosis is made a comprehensive treatment may be initiated.

Carotid ultrasound also may be performed if a patient has high blood pressure or a carotid bruit (pronounced brU-E), an abnormal sound in the neck that is heard with the stethoscope. Other risk factors calling for a carotid ultrasound are:

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

A carotid ultrasound also is used 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 obstruct blood flow or a weaken the wall of the artery.
  • Check the state of the carotid artery after surgery to restore normal blood flow.
  • Verify the position of a metal stent placed to maintain carotid blood flow.

Doppler Ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound images can help your doctor see and evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow (such as clots).
  • Narrowing of vessels (which may be caused by plaque).
  • Tumors and congenital malformation.