What is a Carotid Ultrasound?
Carotid ultrasound is sometimes called Doppler testing. It’s able to determine if your artery walls are narrowed and if you have some plaque in your arteries. It also shows a number of other important factors that include the direction and speed of your blood flow. It also includes the pressure of the blood on the artery walls, as well as the location of any potential blood clots.
If you have recently undergone surgery on your carotid arteries, this ultrasound will show how effective the procedure has been. It’s also used to determine the placement of a stent. It is a specialized type of mesh tube that is carefully inserted into the artery to help improve the blood flow by keeping the artery open and clear. A carotid ultrasound can also determine the effectiveness of the stent during follow-up visits with your cardiologist.
Will This Test be Uncomfortable or Painful?
The really nice thing about this test is that it is completely painless and non-invasive as it simply involves having an ultrasound wand moved over your neck. This will provide your cardiologist with real-time images of the blood flow in the arteries that are shown on a screen.
Sometimes this type of test will be used in conjunction with other procedures to provide a more definitive diagnosis. These tests may include CT scan, x-rays or an MRI. Maybe even an angiography which is a different type of scan where an injected dye will highlight any abnormalities in the arteries.
Who Should Have a Carotid Ultrasound?
A carotid ultrasound may be required to diagnose a problem or as part of a follow-up appointment for previous treatment. Your cardiologist may suggest this test as part of a routine preventative examination. For example; if you are more at risk of developing coronary heart disease. This could be the case if you have certain risk factors or a family history of this disease.
It might be worth having a carotid ultrasound if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, already have coronary artery disease or a family history of this disease. Even if your physician has picked up abnormal sounds on a stethoscope.
People who are particularly inactive or who smoke or who are extremely overweight may also benefit from this test. The great thing about this type of test is that when used as a preventative measure, it can detect the early signs of plaque buildup in the arteries. Hopefully, before any damage caused to the arteries is permanent.
Plaque consists of fat and calcium, and excess cholesterol. It tends to develop as a result of a lack of exercise or due to poor diet. The plaques that develop in arteries are initially soft and are filled with cholesterol, but if they rupture then they can cause an injury at the rupture site.
This resulting scar tissue will eventually become calcified. These areas of calcified healed plaque can interrupt the flow of blood, increasing the risk of blood clots that are more likely to block the blood vessels.
By detecting the presence of plaque at an early stage, your cardiologist will be able to provide medications to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, you will be able to make modifications to your lifestyle to help reverse the process.
This test can be a highly beneficial preventative procedure. Especially as it’s estimated that carotid artery disease causes between 10% and 20% of all strokes in the United States. There is the potential that this test could save your life, as a stroke could leave you with permanent brain damage or may even be fatal.
If you are interested in preventing any form of heart disease or have a family history of heart problems, it could be well worth scheduling an appointment your doctor.