A Carotid Artery Duplex Scan is a way for us to look inside the carotid arteries, which are the main arteries that supply blood to your head, face, and brain. It is used to look for plaque. There is a strong correlation between carotid and coronary plaque, so this is a helpful screening tool for early detection, which is the key to prevention!
There is no preparation you would need to do before a carotid artery duplex scan.
We look inside the carotid blood vessels to look for plaque, or to assess for any other issues with the integrity of the vessels.
During a carotid artery duplex scan you can expect the technician to use an ultrasound probe (like the “wand” used to look at fetuses in pregnant women’s bellies) to scan your neck, while looking at the magnified images on the corresponding computer screen. There will not be any pain with this exam.
After the technician completes the scanning, the healthcare providers will review the images, and assess the health of your carotid arteries, to determine how much plaque there is (if any) and assess any issues with the integrity of the vessels. If necessary, you may be referred for further imaging with a CT scan, if we need a 3D modality. You might also need to be referred to a vascular specialist should THERE be any anatomical issues. Very often we also incidentally come across thyroid nodules, which require further evaluation with a dedicated thyroid ultrasound, and you would need to further follow up with an endocrinologist.
There are no real risks for a carotid artery duplex scan, if performed correctly by our trained and licensed ultrasound technicians. The technology used is the same technology used to scan pregnant bellies and look at babies, so no harm, and no radiation exposure!
As we mentioned before, there is a strong association between coronary and carotid plaque. So if we identify a significant amount of plaque, we may recommend you undergo a coronary calcium score for further screening of your coronary arteries, to help assess the anatomy of your coronary arteries, in terms of their plaque burden. We then would also want to correlate those findings with stress testing, so that we can assess the physiology of those coronary arteries, meaning, okay, we’ve identified plaque, but what does this mean for the overall function of the heart?
If a patient is having his/her carotid arteries examined for the purpose of excluding certain causes for headaches, dizziness, or stroke-like symptoms, the healthcare team might also want to perform a transcranial Doppler, for further assessment.