What is a carotid doppler? A carotid doppler or carotid ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to examine the carotid arteries located on either side of the neck. These arteries supply blood to the brain. Your physician usually performs this test to see if the arteries are narrowing or if there are any blockages caused by plaque buildup. Plaque buildup or narrowing of the arteries can lead to a stroke.
Why your doctor might ask for a carotid doppler Your provider may suggest a carotid doppler if you have transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also known as mini-strokes. They may also ask for the test to be performed if you have any of the following medical conditions as they may increase the risk of a stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of stroke or heart disease
- An abnormal sound in your carotid arteries determined by your doctor using a stethoscope
- Coronary artery disease
Sometimes the test may be used in addition to other tests or procedures including:
- Evaluating blood flow after surgery to remove plaque
- Determine the placement and efficiency of a stent
- Locating a blood clot
- Detecting other abnormalities in the carotid arteries that may disturb blood flow
How do I prepare? There are no specific instructions or dietary restrictions for the carotid doppler. All normal dietary habits and medications can be continued as normal. It is recommended to avoid wearing jewelry and clothing with collars. It is also recommended to provide the physician with a list of all medications you are currently taking. If there are any questions regarding the appointment or the test itself, you should contact your healthcare provider.
During the Test The test can take between 15 to 45 minutes to complete. The sonographer will ask for you to lie on your back on the exam table. They will then apply a gel to each side of your neck. The gel allows for the sound waves to travel better. The ultrasound will then be placed on your neck for the reading.
Results When the test is completed, you are free to return to your normal activities. The images from the ultrasound will be interpreted and written into a report that will be sent to the physician who ordered the test. If the test determines you are at risk of a stroke, your healthcare provider may suggest the following:
- Eating a healthy diet with a high fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain content and a limit on saturated fats
- Exercising regularly
- Avoid smoking or second hand smoke
- Taking medications that reduce blood cholesterol and blood pressure
- Taking medications that prevent blood clots
- Having a surgical procedure done that removes plaque or opens and supports the carotid arteries
If the test was done following a surgical procedure, your physician will discuss how the treatment is working and if there are any additional measures that need to be taken.