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What is a carotid artery ultrasound?

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Quick Answer

Carotid artery ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure used to assess the structure and function of the carotid arteries, explains Mayo Clinic. The carotid arteries supply the brain with blood from the heart.

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Full Answer

A carotid artery ultrasound is usually ordered to determine if a person has a narrowed or blocked carotid artery, notes Mayo Clinic. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease or stroke may need this test to determine if they have an increased risk for stroke. Carotid artery ultrasound is also used to assess the carotid arteries after surgery, detect the underlying cause of obstructed blood flow and look for blood clots in the carotid arteries.

The carotid artery ultrasound does not require any special preparation, but wearing a shirt with an open collar is advised, states Mayo Clinic. Any jewelry that touches the neck, such as drop earrings or pendants, should be removed before the test. During a carotid artery ultrasound, the technician puts warm gel on the neck and uses a device called a transducer to produce images of the carotid arteries. The test usually takes 30 minutes to complete, and there shouldn't be any discomfort. A radiologist reviews the images and sends a report to the doctor who ordered the test.

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