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A carotid ultrasound is a non-invasive, painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to image the neck arteries.
Atherosclerosis may occur in the blood vessels in the neck (the "carotid arteries") which supply blood to the brain. This condition is called carotid stenosis and is typically diagnosed using carotid ultrasound. This technique allows us to look for atherosclerotic plaque and to assess whether this plaque is interfering with blood flow to the brain. As the artery narrows, the velocity of the blood flow increases; ultrasound allows us to measure the speed of the blood flow in order to estimate the degree of blockage.
Your doctor may order a carotid ultrasound if a blockage is suspected based on listening to your neck or based on your cardiovascular risk profile. This test should also be performed if you have had a stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). No special preparation is required; you may be asked to put on a gown so that the transparent acoustic gel does not get on your clothing.
If you have been told that you need a carotid ultrasound, please call the Johns Hopkins Center for Vascular Medicine at 410-616-7225 or the Vascular Surgery Lab at 410-955-5165.