A carotid ultrasound exam is a non-invasive, painless ultrasound that uses high-frequency sound waves to image the neck arteries.
The carotid arteries, neck vessels which supply blood to the brain, are examined with ultrasound to look for plaque and to assess whether this plaque is interfering with blood flow to the brain. As the artery narrows, the velocity of the blood flow increases; ultrasound allows us to measure the speed of the blood flow in order to estimate the degree of blockage.
No special preparation is required; you may be asked to put on a gown so that the transparent acoustic gel does not get on your clothing.
Your doctor may order a carotid ultrasound if a blockage is suspected based on listening to your neck or based on your cardiovascular risk profile. This test should also be performed if you have had a stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).