3 Signs You Need a Carotid Ultrasound

By South Valley Vascular
December 20, 2021

If you are wondering whether you need a carotid ultrasound, you may be worried that you are at risk for a stroke. When is it time to talk to your doctor about your stroke risk factors and whether you need a carotid ultrasound? Let’s talk about the three most significant signs that you need to take action.

What is a Carotid Ultrasound?

Carotid ultrasound is a painless imaging test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the blood flow through the carotid arteries in your neck. Doctors then examine those pictures to detect narrowed carotid arteries because if a buildup of plaque contracts your carotid arteries, this will increase your risk for ischemic stroke. 

When is it Time to Schedule a Carotid Ultrasound?

You have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack

Your doctor might recommend a carotid ultrasound if you have recently had a stroke or mini-stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack). The ultrasound will determine whether it is, in fact, an ischemic stroke (caused by narrowed arteries) rather than a hemorrhagic stroke (caused by leaked blood from an artery or a rupture of an artery). It will also help doctors prevent future strokes because doctors can also use the results of carotid ultrasound to plan treatment to remove the plaque. From there, doctors can determine if treatment, such as carotid endarterectomy or angioplasty, is necessary.

You have symptoms of a stroke or transient ischemic attack

If you have had sudden stroke or transient ischemic attack symptoms, you may be at risk for stroke. The following warning signs can alert you to your risk of stroke: 

  • Confusion
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the face or body
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or lack of balance or coordination

During a transient ischemic attack, you may experience a number of these symptoms, but they will go away within 24 hours without medical intervention. If you have experienced this occurrence, you will likely need a carotid ultrasound as soon as possible to determine the best way to prevent a more dangerous stroke from happening.

You are at severe risk for a stroke

If you know you are at risk for a stroke, your doctor may recommend or you may choose to have a carotid ultrasound. Not all risks warrant action, so while making this decision, you must factor in how many stroke risk factors you suffer from and the severity of each risk factor.  

These risk factors include:

  • kidney disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of ischemic stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Smoking. 

If you are concerned about your risk of stroke, ask your doctor if having a carotid ultrasound is right for you.

Another sign that you may need a carotid ultrasound is an abnormal sound in your carotid artery. This symptom is called a carotid bruit, and doctors can detect it by placing a stethoscope on your neck over the carotid artery. Bruits can alert your doctor to a partial blockage in this artery, which will often lead your doctor to suggest a carotid ultrasound.

If you are still concerned or confused about whether you need a carotid ultrasound, never fear reaching out to a professional. The experts at South Valley Vascular specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and conditions of the blood vessels. We understand your concerns and want to help! For more information on screening for ischemic strokes or to schedule a consultation, call us today at (559) 625-4118.