A carotid doppler scan is a special kind of ultrasound that can evaluate the blood flow to your brain. The test can be used to look for signs of atherosclerosis and to assess the risk of having a stroke.
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 scan can help doctors determine stroke risk and the need for preventive measures.
A carotid doppler test may be performed if one has had a stroke, or, if based on the doctor's evaluation, one is considered to be at increased risk of having a stroke due to decreased blood flow in the carotid arteries. The test can tell your doctor whether there is a blockage or a narrowing of the carotid arteries. It can also measure how well blood is flowing through the arteries.
The carotid doppler ultrasound imaging is a very safe and simple test. You don't need to prepare at all for a carotid ultrasound scan, but it can help to wear loose fitting clothes so that you will be comfortable. You will need to lie still for about half an hour as the scan is performed. You will also need to expose your neck so that the ultrasound scanner can make contact with the skin above your carotid arteries.
At the beginning of the test, a small amount of gel will be spread on the skin on either side of your neck. It helps the ultrasound probe to get a clearer picture. The transducer will then be passed over your neck to create pictures of the carotid arteries. There are two arteries, one on either side of the neck. The transducer is a handheld probe that sends out ultrasound waves. It records the echoes that bounce back and turns them into images. The scan can create pictures of your arteries, which will show any narrowing or blockages. The doppler ultrasound technique can also evaluate blood flow through the arteries by looking at the way blood cells are moving. It allows the doctor to evaluate your blood flow in real time.
You may feel a little bit of pressure as the ultrasound probe passes across your neck. The gel can also feel a bit cold when it is spread on your skin. However, the carotid doppler scan is completely safe and painless. It can be a very effective way of assessing your stroke risk.