Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors
"What will a carotid doppler show?"
I am a 40 year old man and my father died of stroke. Will a carotid doppler show me if I'm going to have a stroke?
A carotid doppler exam uses ultrasound technology to look at the vessel caliber and blood flow within the carotid arteries, which run from the upper chest through the neck and into the skull. Ultrasound is a way of using sound waves to generate images; it does not use radiation like in x-rays or CT scans. The ultrasound can detect if there is any narrowing of the vessels that is either due to stenosis or the build-up of cholesterol plaques (ie, atherosclerosis). The doppler portion of the exam refers to the test's ability to look at the speed and direction of the blood flow within the vessels. Doctors often order a carotid doppler after a patient has symptoms of a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack, sometimes referred to as a "mini-stroke") or fainting. Occasionally a bruit (sound of turbulence within the vessel) can be heard over the artery on a physical exam, which may also prompt ultrasound testing. Usually these tests cannot predict if/when someone will have a stroke, but in the above circumstances, they may suggest if the symptoms already experienced may be due to disease of the carotids. The test may also suggest who is at high risk for recurrence of symptoms, which can help your doctors decide if they want to intervene and fix the vessels.
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