Carotid duplex

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Definition

Carotid duplex is an ultrasound test that shows how well blood is flowing through the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are located in the neck. They supply blood directly to the brain.

Alternative Names

Scan - carotid duplex; Carotid ultrasound; Carotid artery ultrasound; Ultrasound - carotid; Vascular ultrasound - carotid; Ultrasound - vascular - carotid

How the Test is Performed

Ultrasound is a painless method that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. The test is done in a vascular lab or radiology department.

The test is done in the following way:

  • You lie on your back. Your head is supported to keep it from moving. The ultrasound technician applies a water-based gel to your neck to help with the transmission of the sound waves.
  • Next, the technician moves a wand called a transducer back and forth over the area.
  • The device sends sound waves to the arteries in your neck. The sound waves bounce off the blood vessels and form images or pictures of the insides of the arteries.

How to Prepare for the Test

No preparation is necessary.

How the Test will Feel

You may feel some pressure as the transducer is moved around your neck. The pressure should not cause any pain. You may also hear a "whooshing" sound. This is normal.

Why the Test is Performed

This test checks blood flow in the carotid arteries. It can detect:

  • Blood clotting (thrombosis)
  • Narrowing in the arteries (stenosis)
  • Other causes of blockage in the carotid arteries

Your doctor may order this test if:

  • You have had a or (TIA)
  • You need a follow-up test because your carotid artery was found to be narrowed in the past or you have had surgery on the artery
  • Your doctor hears an abnormal sound called a bruit over the carotid neck arteries. This may mean the artery is narrowed.

Normal Results

The results will tell your doctor how open or narrowed your carotid arteries are. For example, the arteries may be 10% narrowed, 50% narrowed, or 75% narrowed.

A normal result means there is no problem with the blood flow in the carotid arteries. The artery is free of any significant blockage, narrowing, or other problem.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means the artery may be narrowed, or something is changing the blood flow in the carotid arteries. This is a sign of atherosclerosis or other blood vessel conditions.

In general, the more narrowed the artery is, the higher your risk of stroke.

Depending on the results, your doctor may want you to:

Risks

There are no risks with having this procedure.

References

Daly C, Rodriguez HE. Carotid artery occlusive disease. Surg Clin N Am. 2013;93:813-32. PMID: 23885933 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23885933.

Kaufman JA, Nesbit GM. Carotid and vertebral arteries. In: Kaufman JA, Lee MJ, eds. Vascular and Interventional Radiology: The Requisites. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 5.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 6/1/2015
  • Daniel Kantor, MD, Kantor Neurology, Coconut Creek, FL and Immediate Past President of the Florida Society of Neurology (FSN), Gainesville, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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