This test uses an ultrasound machine, which includes a computer, a screen, and a transducer. The transducer is a handheld device that sends and receives sound waves. If combined with Doppler ultrasound, this test also can show how blood is moving through your arteries. Carotid ultrasound is done to detect plaque buildup in one or both of the carotid arteries in the neck and to see whether the buildup is narrowing your carotid arteries and blocking blood flow to the brain. Test results will help your doctor plan treatment to remove the plaque and help prevent a stroke.
Carotid ultrasound usually is done in a doctor’s office or hospital. You will lie on your back on an exam table for your test. The ultrasound technician will put gel on your neck where your carotid arteries are located. The gel helps the sound waves reach your arteries. The technician will move the transducer against different areas on your neck. The transducer will detect the sound waves after they have bounced off your artery walls and blood cells. A computer will use the sound waves to create and record pictures of the inside of your carotid arteries and to show how blood is flowing in your carotid arteries.
Carotid ultrasound has no risks because the test uses harmless sound waves. They are the same type of sound waves that doctors use to create and record pictures of a baby inside a pregnant woman.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.