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What does a swishing sound suggest when auscultating a left carotid artery?

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Quick Answer

The detection of a bruit, or swishing sound, when auscultating the left carotid artery suggests turbulence in blood flow through the vessel, which indicates stenosis or atherosclerosis, reports MedicineNet. The accumulation of plaque in the carotid arteries is a cyclic process, which causes increased pressure that causes further plaque buildup.

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The common carotid artery divides into internal and external branches near the larynx, explains Mayfield Clinic. The most common location for the development of carotid stenosis is at this division point. Because the internal carotid arteries supply blood to the brain, the presence of carotid artery disease significantly increases the risk of stroke and subsequent brain damage. Doctors use ultrasound, computed tomography imaging and magnetic resonance angiography to confirm the diagnosis of carotid stenosis. Treatment focuses on reducing the risk of stroke through the prevention of blood clot formation and further plaque development and the removal of existing plaque deposits.

Research links the development of carotid artery disease to smoking, poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to MedicineNet. Carotid atherosclerosis usually develops over a period of time as inflammation causes the development of plaque, which hardens and causes further inflammation. The narrowing of the vessel causes increased pressure, which can cause a piece of plaque to break free and reduce or block blood flow in the carotid artery or in subsequent smaller vessels.

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