What Is A Carotid Ultrasound Test?
The carotid arteries are located on both the right and left sides of the neck and are responsible for providing blood supply to the brain. The carotid arteries branch off into two vessels known as the external and internal carotid arteries and distribute blood flow to designated areas inside the brain. A carotid ultrasound or carotid artery test uses sound waves to visualize the blood flow throughout the carotid arteries and evaluates narrowing or plaque buildup inside the vessel wall.
Our Beverly Hills medical practice is equipped with an advanced duplex ultrasound to perform carotid ultrasound testing as well as a variety of other diagnostic sonographic tests. Contact our office today to schedule your test today! We also have mobile ultrasound technologist that can perform ultrasound testing in the comfort of your home or desired location.
Duplex ultrasound, also known as duplex scan or duplex sonography, is a non-invasive medical imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images of the blood vessels. It combines traditional ultrasound imaging with Doppler ultrasound technology, which measures the direction and speed of blood flow.
Duplex ultrasound is used to evaluate the blood flow in a variety of vessels in the body, such as the carotid arteries in the neck, the renal (kidney) arteries, the aorta, the leg vessels and others. It is particularly useful in detecting blockages or other abnormalities in the blood vessels, such as an aneurysm, a clot, or plaque buildup. It can also detect blood flow problems, such as insufficient blood flow to an organ, and can also be used to measure blood flow velocities and arterial stenosis (narrowing).
The test is non-invasive and painless and can be done in an outpatient setting. The test typically takes between 30 to 60 minutes and does not require any preparation other than avoiding food and drink for a few hours prior to the test.
Duplex ultrasound can provide important information for the diagnosis and management of vascular diseases, and its results will be interpreted and discussed by a radiologist with the patient’s clinician, who will integrate the results in their overall clinical evaluation.
Reasons for carotid ultrasound?
The purpose of having an ultrasound of the carotid arteries or carotid duplex exam is to evaluate the vessel anatomy. Early detection of pathology within the vessel walls can aid in early treatment and prevent strokes and other complications. Patients who have experienced transient ischemic attacks, dizziness, have nearly passed out or have had episodes of passing out may have abnormalities in these vessels.
Indications for Carotid Ultrasound testing:
- Near Syncope
- History of Elevated Cholesterol Levels
- History of Tobacco Use
- Transient Ischemic Attacks
- Family history of carotid artery abnormalities
- History of heart disease
Carotid Angiography vs Carotid Ultrasound
Carotid angiography and carotid ultrasound are both diagnostic tests used to evaluate the condition of the carotid arteries and detect any blockages or other abnormalities.
Carotid ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the carotid arteries. It is typically the first line of evaluation for carotid artery disease because of its non-invasive nature and lack of radiation exposure. It is relatively easy to perform and can be done quickly in an outpatient setting. It allows for measurement of intima-media thickness, luminal diameter, blood flow, and plaque presence.
Carotid angiography, on the other hand, uses X-ray imaging to create detailed pictures of the carotid arteries after injecting a contrast dye. It is considered an invasive test as it require an injection of contrast material and exposes the patient to a small amount of radiation. However, the angiography offers higher resolution images and can be used to guide certain therapeutic interventions.
In general, carotid ultrasound is considered the first-line screening test for carotid artery disease and is used to evaluate the severity of the stenosis, while carotid angiography is considered a more invasive and specialized test, used in more complex cases and/or when ultrasound results are inconclusive. The decision of which test to use is usually determined by the physician after a thorough evaluation of patient’s symptoms, medical history and risk factors. Our physician can guide you in regards to which test and if you need further testing to evaluate your vertebral arteries.
What Is The Prep For a Carotid Ultrasound?
A carotid ultrasound or carotid artery ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create images of the carotid arteries, which are the major blood vessels on the side of your neck that supply blood to the brain. The test is typically performed to check for blockages, carotid plaque, or narrowing of the carotid arteries that can increase the risk of stroke.
The preparation for a carotid ultrasound typically involves the following:
- Fasting: You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for a certain period of time before the test, typically 4 to 6 hours.
- Clothing: You may be asked to wear loose and comfortable clothing, as the ultrasound transducer needs to be placed directly on the skin over the carotid artery.
- Medications: You should inform your doctor of any medications you are currently taking, as some medications, such as blood thinners, may need to be stopped before the test.
- Avoiding certain activities: You may be advised to avoid activities such as heavy exercise or smoking for several hours before the test, as these activities can affect blood flow and may interfere with the results.
How Is A Carotid Ultrasound Performed?
During the test, a gel will be applied to the skin over the carotid artery and a transducer (a small handheld device) will be moved over the skin to create images of the artery. The test is usually painless, and takes around 30-45 minutes. An ultrasound technician places a high frequency transducer on the carotid arteries and the ultrasound machine produces a live image of the vessels.
The blood flow within the arteries as well as the thickness, diameter, plaque buildup is then measured. Carotid Doppler is able to obtain Doppler Velocity of the blood flow within the vessel and help rule out signs of blockage, stenosis or intima wall thickening.
It’s important to inform your doctor of any allergies or medical conditions you have, and any medications you take, in order to ensure the test can be performed safely and the results are accurate. Our medical team will follow up with you in regards to your results and management.