What is a Carotid Bruit?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
January 25, 2023

When you go to the doctor for a routine medical checkup, they will evaluate several things. One common evaluation is to listen to the blood flow in your neck with a stethoscope. If they hear turbulent blood flow, it’s a sign you might have a carotid bruit and may require treatment.

A carotid bruit can signify plaque building that makes the carotid arteries narrow. These arteries are vital since they carry blood to the brain. Without treatment, blood flow could slow down to the point where the risk of a stroke increases. Here’s what you need to know about a carotid bruit and what you should do about it.

Plaque Buildup Can Cause Your Carotid Artery to Narrow

Blood needs to flow smoothly through your carotid artery. When the flow is choppy or disorganized, further examination will likely be required. Plaque buildup is the most common cause of carotid bruits. This can also lead to blood clots in more severe conditions. When your carotid arteries become blocked with too much plaque, blood clots can form. 

Excessive plaque buildup can restrict blood flow to the brain, which increases your risk of a stroke. A carotid bruit is simply a warning sign of a potentially larger issue. So in many ways, discovering a carotid bruit is simply the first puzzle piece to your final diagnosis.

How Do Medical Professionals Discover Carotid Bruits?

Medical providers often discover carotid bruits during routine physical examinations. However, the actual diagnosis may require more testing. If you think of the sound of water rushing in a river, that’s what a carotid bruit sounds like. Your doctor can hear this rushing through a stethoscope, but it’s not possible to hear on your own. 

Most of the time when a doctor identifies a carotid bruit, they will recommend further testing. Sometimes, though, they will simply follow up with you for a further evaluation to determine the severity.

Is A Carotid Bruit Serious?

Sometimes a carotid bruit can be indicative of carotid artery stenosis. If this is the case, then different treatment options are required to reduce your risk of a stroke. But many times, a carotid bruit isn’t serious at all. Blood vessel anatomy can change and cause a carotid bruit in healthy people. 

Since there are many variables to consider, the identification of a carotid bruit sparks the recommendation for further testing. Usually, the first test involves an ultrasound to check on the blood flow in your carotid arteries. Other tests may be required based on other underlying risk factors and your medical history.

Follow The Treatment Advice From Your Medical Professional

Treatment options for a carotid bruit revolve around improving blood flow. Medication is usually the first recommended treatment, especially if your arteries have only narrowed minimally. In many cases, the type of medication prescribed will be blood pressure medication or cholesterol-lowering medication.

Your doctor might also suggest certain lifestyle changes to improve your condition. Avoiding tobacco products, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly are all ideal recommendations. In severe cases, your doctor might recommend surgery. Talk to your doctor about the severity of your condition and follow their treatment recommendations.

The experts at South Valley Vascular are here to help you improve your health. Getting routine annual examinations is critical to detect potential issues with your body. Carotid artery disease can be very serious and immediate attention could be required. If your doctor detects a carotid bruit and suggests further treatment, our team is ready to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about carotid artery disease and how we can help you.