A carotid artery screening, or carotid ultrasound, is painless and takes about 30 minutes to complete. Patients lie down on an exam table while an ultrasound technician uses a transducer to view different areas of the neck and the carotid arteries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
During the procedure, the ultrasound technician also uses a warm gel that helps the transducer reach the arteries and provide a clearer picture, according to Mayo Clinic. To prepare for a carotid ultrasound, patients should wear a loose fitting shirt without a collar and should not wear necklaces or long earrings. For some patients, doctors require additional lab tests prior to the appointment.
There are two carotid arteries, the internal and external, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The purpose of a carotid ultrasound is to determine whether or not the patient's carotid arteries are corroded with plaque. Plaque hardens in the arteries and causes the blood flow to be limited. The plaque can eventually rupture, causing a blood clot and the patient to be at risk of having a stroke. There are several treatments for plaque buildup in the carotid arteries, including surgery, a change in lifestyle,
prescription medications and exercise, states Mayo Clinic.