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Carotid Doppler

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Updated May 27, 2014

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What is a Carotid Doppler Test?:

Carotid doppler ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to measure the flow of blood through the large carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. These arteries can become narrowed due to arteriosclerosis or other causes, and this can lead to transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) or cerebral vascular accident (stroke). The carotid doppler test can help doctors determine stroke risk and the need for preventive measures.

Why Do I Need To Have a Carotid Doppler Test?:

A carotid doppler test may be performed if you have had a stroke, or, if based on your doctor's evaluation, you are considered to be at increased risk of having a stroke due to decreased blood flow in the carotid arteries.

What Preparations Are Necessary For Carotid Doppler Test?:

This is a non-invasive procedure, and no special preparations are necessary.

How is a Carotid Doppler Test Performed?:

The ultrasound technician will apply a jelly-like substance to both sides of your neck, where the carotid arteries are located. This helps lubricate the skin and allow the ultrasound sensor to move more freely. The sensor is moved back and forth over the neck and generates sound waves that bounce off the arteries. The echo that bounces back is measured, and the changes in frequency can measure the flow of blood. The flow will be different in areas that are narrowed.

What Can I Expect After I Have After a Carotid Doppler Test?:

This test takes an average of 15 to 30 minutes for most people, though it can vary. Once the test is completed, you will be free to resume normal activities with no restrictions.

When Will the Results of a Carotid Doppler Test Be Ready?:

The completed test is recorded on a videotape by the ultrasound technician. The tape is reviewed by a diagnostic radiologist who measures the blood flow and determines the amount and location of any narrowing of the carotid arteries. The radiologist will send a report to your doctor. The results should be available within a few days at most.

What are the Next Steps After Carotid Doppler Test?:

Your doctor will review the written report provided by the radiologist. Further treatment recommendations will be based on the results of this test along with other factors as determined by your individual condition. One procedure that may be recommended is a carotid endarterectomy. This surgical procedure is done to open up constricted arteries and increase blood flow to the brain. There are other treatments that may also be recommended.

Sources:

Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, 2000-2003, President & Fellows of Harvard College

Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Edition 16, F.A. Davis Company 1989.

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