Carotid Ultrasound An Overview
A carotid ultrasound is a non-invasive, painless, and safe procedure that uses sound waves to analyze the blood flow through the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries move blood from the heart to the brain. This procedure is one of the Buckeye Heart & Vascular Institute’s most important heart and vascular services.
A carotid ultrasound can help identify narrowed or blocked arteries. The carotid arteries may narrow due to plaque buildup, increasing a patient’s risk of stroke or other complications.
Why do you perform a carotid ultrasound?
A carotid ultrasound helps your physician assess the amount and speed of blood flow through the carotid arteries to determine the degree of blockage. A carotid ultrasound is performed if you have had a transient ischemic attack or stroke. Your physician may order carotid ultrasounds to check the arteries for blood clots, plaque buildup, or blood flow problems.
What are the symptoms of a blockage in the carotid artery?
There are many symptoms to look out for if you believe you have a blockage in the carotid artery. Common reasons your doctor may recommend a carotid ultrasound to evaluate these symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Trouble speaking
- Sudden vision problems
- Medical conditions that increase the risk of stroke
- Family history of heart disease
- Severe headaches
- Recent stroke
- Facial drooping
- Abnormal sound in carotid arteries
- Coronary artery disease
- Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms, or legs
What happens after a carotid ultrasound?
If we determine that you have a blocked carotid artery, we will recommend carotid artery surgery or carotid endarterectomy. A doctor will remove the buildup of plaque that has clogged the artery. You will not need to be put to sleep with general anesthesia. We administer local anesthesia so you do not feel pain or discomfort.
How long does a carotid ultrasound take?
On average, a carotid ultrasound takes around 30 to 60 minutes, but with wait and check-in times, it may take longer. A carotid ultrasound graphs the blood flow through arteries. To see an accurate graph of the blood flow, radiologists usually want to take the ultrasound for at least 30 minutes to get a full picture of the internal flow.
What is a normal carotid ultrasound result?
The typical carotid ultrasound results are reported as normal when there is clear blood flow and little or no narrowing of the arteries. When arteries are narrow, they can be reported as a percentage. For example, 70% stenosis is a bad reading from a carotid ultrasound.
What happens during a carotid ultrasound?
During a carotid ultrasound, the doctor will put gel on the skin around the area they are looking to examine, then use a probe to view the artery. The probe sends waves that bounce off the arteries to produce a live image of blood traveling through the artery.