How to Know It's Time to Get a Carotid Ultrasound

By South Valley Vascular
October 11, 2023

Getting a carotid ultrasound is a great way to assess and potentially lower your risk of stroke. When is the right time to get a carotid ultrasound performed? Today we’re taking a closer look at the process and when’s the best time to get it done.

Why You Might Need a Carotid Ultrasound

A carotid ultrasound is a safe, non-invasive, and painless procedure. It uses sound waves to examine the blood flow in either or both carotid arteries. In addition to spotting clots and blockages, this will also evaluate the thickness of the arterial wall.

Your healthcare provider will usually recommend a carotid ultrasound if you’ve already suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. They may also recommend an ultrasound if you have a condition that makes stroke risk more likely. In addition to family history, this can cover certain other conditions, such as:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Unusual sounds in the carotid, detected using a stethoscope (called a bruit)
  • Coronary arterial disease
  • Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis)

A carotid ultrasound can also be ordered to evaluate blood flow through the artery after a plaque removal surgery. This will make sure the removal was done correctly. It can also be done to evaluate the effectiveness and placement of an implanted stent, locate a hematoma, or detect other blood flow problems.

Similarly, a carotid ultrasound can help detect potential problems in the artery and predict the possibility of future disease. This will give you and your healthcare provider the most information to make the best diagnosis and treatment possible.

How to Prepare for a Carotid Artery Ultrasound

Preparing for a carotid artery ultrasound couldn’t be easier. Like many procedures, you should be contacted to confirm the time and location of the exam prior. Make sure to wear a comfortable shirt with either no collar or an open one, and avoid necklaces or dangling earrings. Beyond any other instructions that your healthcare provider or radiology lab may provide, you should be ready to go.

The technician performing the ultrasound, called the sonographer, will perform the test using a small handheld device called a transducer. The transducer emits ultrasonic sound waves and records the echoes created as they bounce off tissues, organs, and blood cells.

The technician will apply a warm gel on the skin at the site of each artery to help transmit these waves. They will then gently rock the transducer back and forth to get the readings required for the best image.

In mere moments, a special computer then transforms these echoes into a live-action image on a monitor. If a carotid Doppler ultrasound is performed, blood can be seen flowing through the arteries and translated on a graph.

The procedure generally takes around 30 minutes. You may likely be asked to lie on your back during the procedure. The technician may then position your head to apply the gel and access the carotid arteries for readings.

There shouldn’t be any discomfort during the procedure. If you experience any, let your technician know.

Get Your Carotid Ultrasound Taken at South Valley Vascular

Ultrasound readings are an easy and non-invasive way to take a quick snapshot of the inner workings of your body. Schedule yours today to find out what you need to do for your best treatment.

If you live near the Visalia or the surrounding area, South Valley Vascular is your destination for quality vascular treatment. Our knowledgeable professionals can answer any questions about carotid ultrasound or similar treatments like a kidney ultrasound. The sooner you know the situation, the sooner you and your healthcare provider can plan for the future.