Carotid ultrasound checks for plaque buildup in the carotid arteries. Plaque can narrow or block your carotid arteries, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching your brain.
Your doctor may recommend a carotid ultrasound if you:
• Had a stroke or mini-stroke recently. During a mini-stroke, you may have some or all of the symptoms of a stroke. However, the symptoms usually go away on their own within 24 hours.
• Have an abnormal sound in your carotid artery called a carotid bruit (broo-E). Your doctor can hear a carotid bruit with the help of a stethoscope put on your neck over the carotid artery. A bruit may suggest a partial blockage in your carotid artery that could lead to a stroke.
Your doctor also may recommend a carotid ultrasound if he or she suspects you may have:
• Blood clots that can slow blood flow in your carotid artery
• A split between the layers of your carotid artery wall that weakens the wall or reduces blood flow to your brain
A carotid ultrasound also may be done to see whether carotid artery surgery, also called carotid endarterectomy (END-ar-ter-EK-to-me), has restored normal blood flow through your carotid artery.
If you had a procedure called carotid stenting, you may have carotid ultrasound afterward to check the position of the stent put in your carotid artery. (The stent, a small mesh tube, helps prevent the artery from becoming narrowed or blocked again.)
Sometimes carotid ultrasound is used as a preventive screening test in people who have medical conditions that increase their risk of stroke, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
People who have these conditions may benefit from having their carotid arteries checked regularly, even if they show no signs of plaque buildup.
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