Carotid Artery Ultrasound Q & A

What is a carotid artery ultrasound?

Carotid artery ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that looks at how well your blood is flowing through the carotid arteries in your neck.

You have two carotid arteries, one either side of your neck, that deliver freshly oxygenated blood from your heart to your brain. Blockages in the carotid arteries can lead to stroke, which could be disabling or sometimes fatal.

A carotid artery ultrasound uses sound waves to test for narrowing or blockages in the arteries that could increase your risk of having a stroke.

What causes blockages of the carotid arteries?

Blood vessels all around the body may start narrowing or become blocked because of a buildup of a substance called plaque.

Plaque forms from little bits of fats, calcium, cholesterol, and waste products that are present in your bloodstream. Over time these circulating particles clump together and stick to the sides of your blood vessels, forming areas of plaque that leave less room for your blood to flow.

As more plaque builds up, it forms layers that eventually block the blood vessel, and, if it happens in the carotid artery, starves your brain of oxygen and causes a stroke.

When should I have a carotid artery ultrasound?

Diagnosing narrowing of the arteries early on can significantly reduce your chances of having a stroke, so if you have any risk factors for stroke, it’s a good idea to check the health of your carotid arteries. Risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Age over 45-55
  • Tobacco history
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Family history of stroke or heart disease
  • Recent transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke
  • Abnormal sound in the carotid arteries (bruit)

As well as using carotid artery ultrasound to assess stroke risk, the team at Canyons Medical Center might use it to check how well your blood is flowing after a carotid endarterectomy procedure to remove plaque from the arteries.

They may also use carotid artery ultrasound to assess the function of a stent, which is a mesh tube that improves blood flow through the artery. 

Other uses for carotid artery ultrasound include isolating the location of a hematoma, or any other problems that could be affecting the flow of blood through the carotid arteries.

If you have any risk factors for stroke or concerns about your vascular health, call Canyons Medical Center today, or book an appointment online.

Canyons Medical Wellness

A blockage in one of the carotid arteries in your neck could cause a devastating and potentially fatal stroke, so if you’re at risk, you should undergo a carotid artery ultrasound to assess your arterial health. Michael E. Cobble, MD, the director and family practice physician​ at Canyons Medical Center, has extensive experience in carrying out carotid artery ultrasounds to help prevent stroke. Call the Sandy, Utah, office today to find out more, or book an appointment online.