A carotid ultrasound is an imaging test that uses ultrasound to examine the carotid arteries. Carotid ultrasound is performed to look for narrowing or possible blockages of the carotid arteries, which may increase the risk of stroke. Carotid artery stenosis is a narrowing of the large arteries on either side of the neck that carry blood to the head, face, and brain. Carotid arteries may become narrowed by a buildup of plaque made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that circulate in the bloodstream. The diagnosis and treatment of carotid artery stenosis may decrease the risk of stroke. Stenosis can worsen over time to completely block the artery, which may lead to stroke. Risk factors for carotid artery stenosis include age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and an inactive lifestyle.
Carotid ultrasound uses sound waves to create real-time pictures of the arteries and locate blockages. Doppler is a special ultrasound technique that can detect areas of restricted flow in the artery. Other tests, such as computed tomography angiography (CTA), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and cerebral angiography also provide pictures of the carotid arteries.