A carotid bruit is a swooshing sound, according to Mayo Clinic. If a physician detects the abnormal swooshing sound when listening over the carotid artery in the neck with a stethoscope, it is an indication of possible artery blockage and carotid artery disease in the patient. Blocked arteries directly cause the sound.
Normal blood flow is smooth and linear, states Cardiovascular Physiology Concepts. When a blockage occurs, the blood flow becomes turbulent. It is the turbulence that creates the sound waves that make the swooshing sound. This occurs most often in large arteries, such as the carotid artery in the neck. Arteries with larger blockages produce louder, more noticeable bruits. The presence of a carotid bruit leads to further screening tests, such as ultrasound, computerized tomography and angiography, to confirm the diagnosis and fully understand the extent of the blockage, reports Mayo Clinic.
Carotid artery disease may progress to cause a stroke, explains WebMD. If the carotid artery narrows too much due to fatty deposits and cholesterol blockage, the brain receives inadequate blood flow. Symptoms of a stroke, such as vision changes, weakness, balance difficulties, speech problem and confusion, occur. Because carotid artery disease often occurs without symptoms, checking for a carotid bruit is a simple way to screen for blockage in the artery. Early detection offers patients treatment options to reduce their risk of stroke.