Carotid Ultrasound

  • Carotid ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that uses sound waves to examine the structure and function of the carotid arteries in your neck.
  • You have two carotid arteries; one on each side of your neck. Carotid arteries deliver blood from your heart to your brain.
  • Carotid ultrasound is usually used to test for blocked or narrowed carotid arteries, which can indicate an increased risk of stroke. Results from a carotid ultrasound can help your doctor determine what kind of treatment you may need to lower your risk of stroke.


  • Call the day before the exam to confirm the time and location of the exam.
  • Wear a comfortable shirt with no collar or one that has an open collar.
  • Don’t wear a necklace or dangling earrings.
  • A carotid ultrasound usually takes about 30 minutes.
  • Unless your doctor or the radiology lab provides special instructions, you shouldn’t need to make any other preparations.


  • A technician (sonographer) conducts the test with a small, hand-held device called a transducer. The transducer emits sound waves and records the echo as the waves bounce off tissues, organs and blood cells.
  • A computer translates the echoed sound waves into a live-action image on a monitor. In a Doppler ultrasound, the information about the rate of blood flow is translated into a graph.
  • You’ll likely lie on your back during the procedure. The sonographer may gently adjust the position of your head to improve access to the side of your neck.
  • The sonographer will apply a warm gel to your skin above the site of each carotid artery. The gel helps eliminate the formation of air pockets between your skin and the transducer. The sonographer then gently presses the transducer against the side of your neck in order for the instrument to send and receive sound waves.
  • You shouldn’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. If you do, tell the sonographer.
  • The doctor who ordered the test will explain to you what the carotid ultrasound revealed and how the results will affect your medical care.