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What is a Carotid Ultrasound?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 May 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The carotid arteries, located on either side of the neck, transport blood from the heart to the brain. If a doctor needs to examine these arteries, he orders a carotid ultrasound for the patient. When this particular type of ultrasound is performed on a patient, detailed pictures are taken of the carotid arteries. High-frequency sound waves are used to take these pictures, exposing the arteries so that the doctor can detect if the carotid arteries are narrowing. If they are constricted, the patient has a greater chance of suffering a stroke.

A carotid ultrasound may be utilized if a patient has high blood pressure or a carotid bruit, a sound heard in the neck when the doctor listens through a stethoscope. Patients with diabetes, patients with high cholesterol levels, elderly people, or patients with cases of heart disease or stroke within the family, may also undergo an ultrasound of the carotid. Doctors might recommend a carotid ultrasound to find a hematoma, blood clots that are capable of slowing down or ceasing the flow of blood.

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They may also use this particular form of ultrasound to determine if the carotid artery has a dissection, a condition that could cause obstruction of blood flow or weakening of the artery wall. A patient may undergo a carotid ultrasound to monitor the condition of the carotid artery following surgery to recover normal flow of blood. Ultrasound might also be used to determine the position of a stent placed inside the body.

The ultrasound scanner consists of a computer, a video display screen, and a transducer. The transducer, a small handheld device, scans both the body and blood vessels. Similar in appearance to a microphone, it attaches to the scanner.

High-frequency sound waves flow from the transducer into the patient's body. The transducer then waits for echoes stemming from the body's tissues. Finally, the display screen reveals the image of the carotid arteries.

The majority of ultrasound procedures are quick, simple, and comfortable. The sonographer or radiologist places the patient on the examination table and puts gel on the skin. After the transducer is placed on the body, the medical professional moves it over an area of the body relating to the carotid artery. As this occurs, pictures are taken. The medical professional performing the ultrasound may ask the patient to turn or tilt the head in order to capture images of the carotid arteries from every possible angle.

Patients scheduled for a carotid ultrasound should wear loose-fitting clothing. Jewelry should not be worn during the procedure and clothing should not cover the area being examined. The procedure usually takes no more than 30 minutes to complete.

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