What is a carotid ultrasound?

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Rick Sayegh
Rick Sayegh on behalf of MDLIVE
Internal Medicine
Carotid duplex ultrasound (CDUS) uses B-mode ultrasound imaging and Doppler ultrasound to detect focal increases in blood flow velocity indicative of high-grade carotid stenosis. The peak systolic velocity is the most frequently used measurement to gauge the severity of the stenosis, but the end-diastolic velocity, spectral configuration, and the carotid index or peak internal carotid artery velocity-to-common carotid artery velocity ratio provide additional information. Color Doppler flow imaging may improve the efficiency of the test, but it has not been shown to improve accuracy.
Carotid ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the insides of the two large arteries in your neck.

These arteries, called carotid arteries, supply your brain with oxygen-rich blood. You have one carotid artery on each side of your neck.

Carotid ultrasound shows whether a substance called plaque has narrowed your carotid arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Plaque builds up on the insides of your arteries as you age. This condition is called carotid artery disease.

This answer is based on source information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
This ultrasound procedure can detect carotid artery disease – blood clots, plaque build up, and other blood flow problems in the carotid arteries – early, before it causes any symptoms. When the disease is detected early vascular specialists can perform procedures that are effective in preventing stroke.
A carotid ultrasound uses harmless sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your carotid arteries. A separate test called a Doppler ultrasound can be used to image blood flow through the carotid arteries. Together these tests can identify narrowing in the carotid arteries. This effective test poses no radiation risks and is painless. The test is done by placing a small probe over the neck area to evaluate the arteries that supply blood to the head and neck.

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