This test uses ultrasound to look at the blood flow in the carotid arteries, which are located on each side of the neck and carry blood from the heart to the brain. During the ultrasound, the technician places a handheld instrument called a transducer on the patient’s skin, transmitting sound waves that produce images of the blood vessels on a monitor. This test is done as the first step to look the carotid arteries. Sometimes, arteriography may be needed later. The test is done to diagnose or evaluate:

  • Arteriosclerosis of the carotid arteries
  • Blood clot (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Carotid bruit (an abnormal sound in the neck that is heard with the stethoscope)
  • Injury to the arteries
  • Monitor arterial reconstruction and bypass grafts
  • Tumors and/or abnormalities in the structure of the vessels

In an angiogram, X-rays are used to determine whether plaque has blocked the carotid artery. During this test, which requires local anesthesia, a doctor makes a small incision in the skin near the groin, inserts a thin tube called a catheter, and guides it into the carotid artery. The doctor moves the catheter to the area to be examined and injects a dye that highlights any narrow, enlarged, or blocked blood vessels.

Angioplasty involves temporarily inserting and inflating a tiny balloon where your artery is clogged to help widen the artery and is often combined with the permanent placement of a small wire mesh tube called a stent.

This helps to prop the artery open and decrease its chance of it narrowing again. Many stents are coated with medication to help keep your artery open.