Carotid Artery Duplex Scan
What is a carotid artery duplex scan?
You have 2 carotid arteries in your neck that bring blood from your heart to your
brain. The test may also look at the vertebrobasilar artery, which also brings blood
to your brain.
Your healthcare provider uses a device called a transducer to make pictures of the
arteries. The transducer sends out sound waves that bounce off your blood vessels.
The sound waves are too high-pitched for you to hear. The transducer then picks up
the bounced sound waves and translates them into pictures.
A duplex scan means that the provider uses 2 transducers. The second one (Doppler)
lets your provider hear the sound waves the transducer sends out. He or she can hear
how fast blood is flowing through a blood vessel and in which direction it is flowing.
No sound or a faint sound may mean that you have a blockage in the flow.
Why might I need a carotid artery duplex scan?
You may need this scan if your healthcare provider thinks you may have:
- A blockage (occlusion) in a carotid artery
- Narrowing (stenosis) in a carotid artery
A blockage may be caused by a buildup of fatty material (plaque), a blood clot (thrombus),
or other substances.
Symptoms of blockage may include:
- Temporary blindness in one eye
- Temporary inability to speak or move
These symptoms may be early warning signs of a stroke.
You may also need this scan even if you have no symptoms but your healthcare provider
hears an abnormal sound (bruit) in an artery. This abnormal sound may mean that you
have a problem with blood flow in the artery.
Here are other reasons you may have this scan:
- To see how well blood is flowing after a procedure done on an artery. This may have
been a procedure to open up an artery (angioplasty) or surgery to bypass a blocked
- To see how well blood is flowing before you have major heart surgery. This surgery
may be bypass surgery or surgery to fix or replace a heart valve.
- To find where clotted blood has collected (hematoma)
- To find out if an artery wall has split (dissection). This may cause a blockage or
weaken the artery wall.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a carotid artery duplex
What are the risks for a carotid artery duplex scan?
This scan has no risk from radiation. The transducer usually causes no discomfort
when put on your skin.
You may have risks depending on your specific health condition. Be sure to talk with
your provider about any concerns you have before the scan.
Certain things can make this scan less accurate. These include:
- Severe obesity
- Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Heart disease
How do I get ready for a carotid artery duplex scan?
- Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions
you have about the procedure.
- You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the test. Read
the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.
- You do not need to stop eating or drinking before the test. You also will not need
medicine to help you relax (sedation).
- If you smoke, you may need to stop for at least 2 hours before the test. Smoking causes
blood vessels to narrow. You may also be asked to not drink or eat any foods with
caffeine for about 2 hours before the test.
- Follow any other instructions your provider gives you to get ready.
What happens during a carotid artery duplex scan?
You may have this scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The
way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's
Generally, a carotid artery duplex scan follows this process:
- You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may get in
the way of the scan.
- You will be given a gown to wear.
- You will lie on an exam table with your neck slightly bent backward.
- The technologist will put a clear gel on the skin over the area where the carotid
- The Doppler transducer will be pressed against the skin and moved around over the
area of the artery being looked at.
- When blood flow is detected, you will hear a "whoosh, whoosh" sound. The probe will
be moved around to look at blood flow in different areas of the artery. Both sides
of your neck will be looked at.
- Once the test is done, the technologist will wipe off the gel.
The carotid artery duplex scan is not painful. But you may have some discomfort from
lying still during the test. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures
and finish the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort.
What happens after a carotid artery duplex scan?
You do not need any special care after a carotid artery duplex scan. You may go back
to your usual diet and activities unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
- The name of the test or procedure
- The reason you are having the test or procedure
- What results to expect and what they mean
- The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
- What the possible side effects or complications are
- When and where you are to have the test or procedure
- Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
- What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
- Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
- When and how will you get the results
- Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
- How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure