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Carotid Ultrasound Testing

H2H - Fall 2011 whoosh!

Whoosh! That sound may be telling your doctor that you have carotid artery disease. The carotid arteries carry oxygenrich blood to your brain, face, scalp and neck. If they narrow or become blocked because of a buildup of plaque (a substance made up of fat, cholesterol and calcium, among other things, found in the blood), your doctor may hear a whooshing sound called a bruit when he or she listens to your carotid arteries through a stethoscope. Abruitis the sound the blood makes when it is flowing, or attempting to fl ow past an obstacle such as plaque buildup. When its path is clear, the blood flows quietly and evenly.

Carotid Artery Disease: A Silent Killer

Because it can block blood flow to the brain, carotid artery disease is a leading cause of stroke. Approximately 50 percent of strokes result from carotid artery disease.

Carotid artery disease can be elusive. People often don't realize they have it until they experience a stroke.

In many cases, we can diagnose carotid artery disease and treat it before a stroke occurs. If your doctor suspects you have carotid artery disease, the next step is typically a carotid ultrasound.

Pain-Free Diagnosis

Carotid ultrasound testing is completely painless. The test uses a high-frequency sound to create images of the insides of two large arteries in your neck, so a cardiologist or vascular surgeon can review their structure and see any plaque buildup. Two ultrasound tests are performed simultaneously: The standard ultrasound provides information about the arteries’ structure, and the Doppler ultrasound focuses on blood flow.

Treatment for Carotid Artery Disease

Treatment for carotid artery disease varies, depending on how far the disease has progressed. Medications such as blood thinners are often prescribed to prevent clotting and stroke. Surgical procedures, including carotid endarterectomy and carotid angioplasty with stenting, are common treatments for those who have advanced disease, and typically are used for patients whose arteries are at least 75% blocked.

Has your doctor listened to your carotid arteries lately? If not, schedule an appointment with your doctor today.