Carotid ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that tests for blocked or narrowed carotid arteries, which can increase the risk of stroke. The carotid arteries are located on each side of the neck and deliver blood from the heart to the brain.
A standard carotid ultrasound shows the structure of your carotid arteries and looks for the buildup of plaque, which can lead to a stroke. Your carotid ultrasound test may also include a Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasound shows the movement of blood through your blood vessels. Your doctor might need results from both types of ultrasound to fully assess whether you have a blood flow problem in your carotid arteries.
What happens during a carotid ultrasound?
Carotid ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the insides of your carotid arteries. A carotid ultrasound usually takes about 30 minutes.
You'll likely lie on your back during the ultrasound. A sonographer will apply a gel to your skin above the site of each carotid artery. The gel helps transmit the ultrasound waves from a hand-held device called a transducer. The transducer emits sound waves and records the echo as the waves bounce off tissues, organs and blood cells. A computer translates the echoed sound waves into a live-action image on a monitor. In a Doppler ultrasound, the rate of blood flow is translated into a graph.
You will be able to resume your normal activities immediately following the exam.