Carotid and Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound

Carotid & Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound

Carotid Ultrasound is a painless imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your carotid arteries.

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.

Peripheral Vascular Ultrasound is a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) procedure used to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins. A transducer (like a microphone) sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard.

When the transducer is placed on the skin at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the blood vessels, where the waves echo off of the blood cells. The transducer picks up the reflected waves and sends them to an amplifier, which makes the ultrasonic sound waves audible.

There are several types of peripheral ultrasound exam including carotid duplex, venous duplex and arterial Doppler. These tests are helpful in locating blockages, abnormal valves, peripheral vascular disease and stroke symptoms. The specifics will vary depending on the type of test.

In most cases, you will lie on your back while a water-soluble gel is placed on your skin over the extremity being tested. A hand-held transducer, which transmits high-frequency sound waves, will be passed over the area being tested. Often, blood pressure cuffs will be placed around your legs or arm depending on the type of test. The ultrasound or Doppler records images during this process.

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