If you've been told you need a carotid duplex ultrasound scan, you may be wondering what it is and why you need one. A carotid duplex ultrasound scan is a non-invasive test used to assess the condition of your carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are the arteries that supply blood to your head and neck. A carotid duplex ultrasound scan can help to identify blockages or narrowing of the carotid arteries that could lead to a stroke.
What is a Carotid Duplex Ultrasound Scan?
A carotid duplex ultrasound scan is a type of medical imaging that utilizes sound waves to produce an image of the carotid artery.
Plaque buildup or blockages in the carotid artery are typically detected during this procedure. Carotid duplex ultrasound scans are used to diagnose and treat patients with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and other related diseases. Sometimes these scans are also used as a screening tool for stroke risk.
A carotid duplex ultrasound scan can also assess and measure blood flow through the arteries, which can help diagnose the narrowing of the arteries.
What Is the Scan Used For?
Carotid duplex ultrasound is a diagnostic test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the carotid arteries. The test usually takes place on people who have symptoms of carotid artery disease, such as:
- Atherosclerosis: Hardening and narrowing of the arteries that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
- Migraine headaches: Pain in one side or both sides of the head.
- Dizziness or vertigo with sudden onset: A feeling that you or everything around you is spinning.
A carotid duplex ultrasound scan enables you to check for:
- Plaque buildup in the carotid arteries
- Blood clots in the carotid arteries
- Narrowed or blocked carotid arteries
If you have symptoms of a stroke, your doctor may recommend a carotid duplex ultrasound scan to check for blockages in your carotid arteries. This test is also suitable for people who are at high risk for developing carotid artery disease, such as those who:
- Are smokers
- Have high blood pressure
- Are obese
- Have diabetes
- Have a family history of carotid artery disease
- Have an abnormal gene
A team of technologists then uses the ultrasound machine to take images and videos from multiple angles, which are saved as still photos, video clips, or 3D models. Printing is possible for further review.
How Is a Carotid Duplex Ultrasound Scan Performed?
An ultrasound technician will apply a warm gel to your skin above the site of each carotid artery. Ultrasound waves are transmitted back and forth by the gel. Once that is done, the sonographer makes a gentle push against the side of your neck with the transducer. The imaging process shouldn't cause any discomfort to you.
Are There Any Risks to a Carotid Duplex Ultrasound Scan?
Although the test is generally safe, there are a few potential risks. These include bleeding, infection, and blood clots. In rare cases, the ultrasound waves could also cause a stroke. However, this is very rare and usually only happens if the person undergoing the test already has a carotid artery blockage.
Overall, the risks of a carotid duplex ultrasound scan are very low. The test is safe for most people and can help prevent a potentially life-threatening stroke.
How Should I Prepare For my Carotid Duplex Ultrasound Scan?
You don't need to prepare much for this test. During the test, the accuracy can be affected by smoking or caffeine use. Before the test, you may be asked not to smoke or consume caffeine for at least 2 hours.
You can also prepare for your test by:
- Wearing comfortable clothing with an open neckline
- Avoiding turtlenecks and silk clothing, which could stain from ultrasound gel
- Removing any jewelry you may have
Contact the Vascular Institute of Virginia
Carotid ultrasound is a safe, painless test that uses sound waves to examine the carotid arteries. These arteries supply blood to your brain. The test aims to check for plaque buildup or narrowing of the carotid arteries. Plaque buildup or narrowing can lead to stroke. The carotid duplex ultrasound scan is available at the Vascular Institute of Virginia. To schedule an appointment, please call us at 703-763-5224.