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What is a Carotid Ultrasound?
In medicine, ultrasound technology is used to view an image of the interior of certain parts of the human body. Ultrasound uses sound waves to generate these images, and undergoing an ultrasound is both painless and harmless.
A carotid ultrasound is used to generate images of the carotid arteries, which are located on either side of the neck and supply blood to the brain. Carrying out a carotid ultrasound is the best and safest way to determine whether an individual has carotid arteries which have narrowed as a result of plaque deposits on the interior walls.
Plaque deposits develop over time as a result of a build-up of cholesterol, fat, and calcium, and can, if they become large enough, narrow or entirely block the arteries. This reduces or blocks the supply of blood to the brain, causing a blood clot, and subsequently a stroke.
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Blood Test Results that Would Trigger Carotid Ultrasound
People who have recently had a stroke or mini-stroke, or who have abnormal arterial sounds that indicate heightened stroke risk, may undergo a carotid ultrasound for risk assessment purposes. A doctor may order a carotid ultrasound if they suspect a patient has a blood clot or another arterial condition that may increase risk.
There are certain diseases, such as diabetes, as well as biological markers such as high cholesterol, that can increase the risk of narrowing of the carotid arteries. Such health problems can also increase the risk of a blockage developing in the carotid arteries. This means there are several blood test results that would trigger carotid ultrasound, particularly in people with these risk factors.
Typically, diseases that increase the risk of a stroke are more likely to have semi-regular carotid ultrasound as a preventative screening measure. Blood test results such as high blood sugar or high cholesterol, therefore, are two blood test results that would trigger carotid ultrasound, particularly in people with other risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
A Doppler ultrasound is used in cases where a doctor wants to examine how blood moves through the patient’s blood vessels, and is often a part of a carotid ultrasound procedure. In some cases, a doctor may order a bilateral carotid Doppler ultrasound, which examines the carotid artery on both sides of the neck.