This test looks for plaque in the two carotid arteries that feed the brain, blockages here can cause strokes. Your carotid arteries, one on each side of your neck, deliver blood to your brain.
Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. 795,000 strokes occur annually, one every 45 seconds. 610,000 are first attacks. The overwhelming majority are caused by plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. Stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in older people.
It should be noted that carotid screening is also a good way to look at a person’s general risk of developing any kind of blood vessel disease in the future, as the development of blockages in the carotids are an indication that they can be developing in other parts of the body, such as the arteries that feed the heart (increasing the risk for heart attacks in the future), legs, and so on
Who Should Have This Test
Carotid screening should be considered in anyone over the age of approximately 40, to evaluate both general vascular and stroke risk.
The Test Procedure
Carotid artery ultrasound is the exam used to detect plaque or blockages in the carotid arteries. We use ultrasound technology to look inside each carotid artery for blockages and plaque build-up. The technologist applies a gel to the skin of the neck, and then a transducer, a special ultrasound probe, is placed over the area, giving us a picture of the arteries. We can look for plaque and also estimate how well blood is flowing through the artery at the same time. The test is painless, comfortable, and requires no special preparation. There are no injections, dyes, or x-rays involved. You should wear a loose opened collar shirt for the exam.
Your test will be interpreted by a qualified physician specialist. You will receive a complete report of your findings, like the one below, within a few days. The report will be sent to you by mail. View a sample report.
Remember that these screening tests are for risk evaluation only, and do not diagnose, prevent, or cure any disease. It is your responsibility to share the screening results with your physician.