What Is a Carotid Doppler Test?
The carotid Doppler test is an ultrasound procedure that allows a technician to listen to the flow of blood in the arteries of your neck. What they are listening for is a whooshing sound that indicates your blood may not be flowing normally. This sound is called a bruit, pronounced “BROO-ee.”
You may not notice any physical symptoms when you have blocked arteries, but your primary care physician may be able to detect differences in your blood flow with a simple stethoscope during your physical exam. A carotid Doppler is a more accurate test used to detect a blockage in the arteries of your neck, a condition called carotid artery disease. This disease leads to a stroke or heart attack. There are several ways your arteries can become clogged, including:
- Fatty deposits
- A blood clot
- Plaque, which is a build-up of cholesterol and white blood cells on the walls of an artery
At the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Queens, NY, a variety of medical specialists work under one roof so that your primary care physician has access to trained experts in both cardiology and vein disease. The facility is equipped to make in-house referrals whenever necessary, rely on collaborative sessions with multiple specialists and conduct a carotid Doppler ultrasound or any other preventive testing your doctor may recommend.
Why Would My Doctor Order This Scan?
Your doctor or specialist may order a carotid Doppler black and white test if it’s suspected that you have carotid artery disease. The test is also an option if you’ve complained of any symptoms similar to those of a stroke. Additionally, if you’re at risk of a stroke or cardiac disease because it runs in your family, your doctor may want a carotid Doppler done on a regular schedule to prevent a stroke or heart disease. Risks associated with a stroke or heart attack include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- A family history of strokes or heart disease
- Being a cigarette smoker
- A sedentary lifestyle that doesn’t include regular exercise
- Being overweight
- If you had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a minor stroke recently
What Can I Expect During a Carotid Doppler?
The carotid Doppler test is painless and risk-free. You need no preparations beyond wearing a shirt that allows access to your neck. You can’t wear any jewelry that may get in the way on the day of the test. If your doctor at the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center has special instructions, you’ll know before you come for the test. The carotid Doppler ultrasound is a simple, straightforward test. Its steps include:
- You’re asked to lie on your back on an exam table.
- A sonographer conducts the test, using a wand that’s similar to the handheld ultrasound device what’s used on pregnant women to capture images of their fetus.
- The technician applies a special gel to your skin of the target area, usually on or near your neck. The gel helps capture a sharper image.
- The sonographer moves the wand across your skin as your doctor watches as a black and white image appears on a computer monitor.
The sonographer conducts the test, but isn’t qualified to interpret the results. Your recorded test results are sent to a radiologist, who does have the skills to interpret the results of the Doppler ultrasound for your doctor. The sonographer usually declines to answer your questions unless you are asking about the anatomy on the screen. Keep any other questions for your doctor who ordered the test. Within a short time, you’ll hear from your doctor for a follow-up appointment to review the results.
What Follows a Carotid Doppler Test?
Once you’ve discussed your results with your referring doctor, you may need a follow-up test, such as an echocardiogram or a venous Doppler. If the results of the carotid Doppler are unclear or if your doctor needs more information, it’s possible that you have to repeat the carotid Doppler, but that’s unusual.
You may be referred to a specialist to lose weight or to a physical therapist at Medex for help developing an appropriate exercise regimen. You may be advised to make changes to your diet or lifestyle or get treatment for other conditions preventing you from experiencing your ultimate health. Your Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center team works together, based on the carotid Doppler results, to offer a complete treatment routine. Contact Medex today to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.