What is a Carotid Ultrasound?

A carotid ultrasound is an exam that takes pictures of the carotid arteries, or the main arteries in your neck. These important arteries supply blood to the brain as well as to the face and scalp. Sometimes they can become narrowed or clogged with a fatty buildup called plaque, a condition called carotid artery disease.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of the body. It is painless and does not use radiation. During a carotid ultrasound, a gel that helps transmit the sound waves is applied to the skin. Then a wand is moved over the skin, sending sound waves through the neck and producing a picture on the computer screen.

A carotid ultrasound is usually performed to diagnose carotid artery disease. The ultrasound can look for narrow sections of artery, plaque buildup, or blood clots that may decrease blood flow to the brain. Plaque and blood clots can potentially break off into the bloodstream and get stuck within the brain, causing a stroke. A specific kind of ultrasound called Doppler ultrasound can detect motion and measure how well blood is flowing. Carotid ultrasound can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for carotid artery disease, such as a stent.

Carotid ultrasounds are easy and painless, require no recovery, and provide important information about the health of your neck arteries.
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