Quality Medical Care
675 S. Babcock Street
Melbourne, FL 32901
Phone: (321) 951-1010
Fax: (321) 726-8626
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
WHAT IS CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
Carotid ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the insides of the two large arteries in your neck. These arteries, called carotid arteries, supply your brain with blood. You have one carotid artery on each side of your neck.
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WHY IS A CAROTID ULTRASOUND PERFORMED?
Carotid ultrasound shows whether a material called plaque has narrowed your carotid arteries. Plaque is made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. It builds up on the insides of your arteries as you age.
Too much plaque in a carotid artery can cause a stroke. The plaque can slow down or block the flow of blood through the artery, allowing a blood clot to form. A piece of the blood clot can break off and get stuck in the artery, blocking blood flow to the brain. This is what causes a stroke.
A standard carotid ultrasound shows the structure of your carotid artery. Your carotid ultrasound test may include a Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound that shows the movement of blood through your blood vessels. Your doctor often will need results from both types of ultrasound to fully assess if there is a problem with blood flow through your carotid arteries.
WHO NEEDS CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
Carotid ultrasound checks for plaque buildup in the carotid arteries. This buildup can narrow or block your carotid arteries. You may need a carotid ultrasound if you:
Had a stroke or mini-stroke recently
Have an abnormal sound in your carotid artery called a carotid bruit. Your doctor can hear a carotid bruit with the help of a stethoscope put on your neck over the carotid artery. A bruit can mean that there’s a partial blockage in your carotid artery that could lead to a stroke.
Suspected blood clots that can slow blood flow in your carotid artery
A suspected split between the layers of your carotid artery wall that weakens the wall or reduces the blood flow to your brain.
A carotid ultrasound also may be done to see whether the carotid artery surgery has restored normal blood flow. If you had a procedure called carotid stenting, your doctor may order a carotid ultrasound afterward to check the position of the stent put in your carotid artery. (The stent, a small mesh tube, helps prevent the artery from becoming narrowed or blocked again.)
Sometimes carotid ultrasound is used as a preventive screening test in people who have medical conditions that increase their risk of stroke, including high blood pressure and diabetes. People with these conditions may benefit from having their carotid arteries checked regularly even if they show no signs of plaque buildup.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT BEFORE A CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
Carotid ultrasound is a painless test, and typically there is little to do in advance. Your doctor will tell you how to prepare for your carotid ultrasound.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING A CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
The ultrasound machine includes a computer, a video screen, and a transducer, which is a hand-held device that sends and receives ultrasound waves into and from the body.
You will lie down on your back on an exam table for the test. Your technician or doctor will put a gel on your neck where your carotid arteries are located. This gel helps the ultrasound waves reach the arteries better. Your technician or doctor will put the transducer against different spots on your neck and move it back and forth.
The transducer gives off ultrasound waves and detects their echoes after they bounce off the artery walls and blood cells. Ultrasound waves can’t be heard by the human ear.
A computer uses the echoes of the ultrasound waves bouncing off the carotid arteries to create and record images of the insides of the arteries (usually in black and white) and your blood flowing through them (usually in color; this is the Dopper ultrasound). A video screen displays these live images for your doctor to review.
DO I NEED A REFERRAL (PRESCRIPTION) TO HAVE MY CAROTID ULTRASOUND
Yes, your doctor must provide a referral (prescription) in order for you to receive a examination. In addition, some insurance carriers or HMO’s require a pre-certification. Please discuss this with your doctor and your insurance company or HMO prior to your test.
WHEN WILL I KNOW THE RESULTS OF MY EXAMINATION?
A Cardiologist will review your study the same day and a written report will be available within 24 hours. A detailed written report of the procedure, findings, and results will be sent to your physician within 24 hours. Your physician will then call you to discuss the results. Urgent results will be telephoned immediately to your doctor.
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WHAT DOES A CAROTID ULTRASOUND SHOW?
A carotid ultrasound can show whether buildup of a fatty material called plaque has narrowed one or both of your carotid arteries and reduced blood flow to your brain.
If your carotid arteries are narrowed by plaque, you may be at risk for having a stroke. That risk depends on how much of your artery is blocked and how much blood flow is restricted. To reduce your risk for stroke, your doctor may recommend medical or surgical treatments to reduce or remove the plaque buildup in your carotid arteries.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF CAROTID ULTRASOUND?
There are no risks linked to having a carotid ultrasound, because the test uses harmless sound waves. These are the same type of sound waves that doctors use to record pictures of fetuses in pregnant women.