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Cardiac Center of Texas
Vein Clinic of Texas

4201 Medical Center Drive
Suite 380
McKinney, TX 75069

1600 Coit Road
Suite 209
Plano, TX 75075

(p) 972-529-6939
(f) 972-529-6935

Office Hours

Mon - Fri 8:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. CST

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Carotid Ultrasound – Stroke Screening

Stroke Screening : What Is Carotid Ultrasound?

Carotid (ka-ROT-id) ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the insides of your carotid arteries.

You have two common carotid arteries, one on each side of your neck. They each divide into internal and external carotid arteries.

The internal carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain. The external carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your face, scalp, and neck.


Carotid ultrasound shows whether a waxy substance called plaque (plak) has built up in your carotid arteries. The buildup of plaque in the carotid arteries is called carotid artery disease.

Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the carotid arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a carotid artery, which can cause a stroke.

A piece of plaque or a blood clot also can break away from the wall of the carotid artery. The plaque or clot can travel through the bloodstream and get stuck in one of the brain’s smaller arteries. This can block blood flow in the artery and cause a stroke.

A standard carotid ultrasound shows the structure of your carotid arteries. Your carotid ultrasound test might include a Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasound is a special test that shows the movement of blood through your blood vessels.

Your doctor might need results from both types of ultrasound to fully assess whether you have a blood flow problem in your carotid arteries.

Who Needs Carotid Ultrasound?

A carotid ultrasound shows whether you have plaque buildup in your carotid arteries. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). This can reduce or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain and cause a stroke.

Your doctor may recommend a carotid ultrasound if you:

  • Had a stroke or mini-stroke recently. During a mini-stroke, you may have some or all of the symptoms of a stroke. However, the symptoms usually go away on their own within 24 hours.
  • Have an abnormal sound called a carotid bruit (broo-E) in one of your carotid arteries. Your doctor can hear a carotid bruit using a stethoscope. A bruit might suggest a partial blockage in your carotid artery, which could lead to a stroke.

Your doctor may also recommend a carotid ultrasound if he or she thinks you have:

  • Blood clots in one of your carotid arteries
  • A split between the layers of your carotid artery wall. The split can weaken the wall or reduce blood flow to your brain.

A carotid ultrasound also might be done to see whether carotid artery surgery, also called carotid endarterectomy (END-ar-ter-EK-to-me), has restored normal blood flow through a carotid artery.

If you had a procedure called carotid stenting, your doctor might use carotid ultrasound afterward to check the position of the stent in your carotid artery. (The stent, a small mesh tube, supports the inner artery wall.)

Carotid ultrasound sometimes is used as a preventive screening test in people at increased risk of stroke, such as those who have high blood pressure and diabetes.

For further information please contact Cardiac Center of Texas at 972-529-6939 or send us a question through the patient portal under the Patients tab at the top of the page.  Thank you for visiting