A related test called a carotid IMT (intima-medial thickness) can help predict the risk of a future cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, and can help your cardiologist develop a treatment plan to avoid one.
Similar to other types of ultrasounds, a carotid ultrasound examines only the carotid arteries, the pathways for blood flow between your heart and brain located on either side of the neck. Plaque build-up can narrow these arteries and if they become blocked, you may experience a stroke.
A carotid ultrasound is painless and typically takes around 30 minutes to complete. Using a transducer, a technician will gather data about your blood flow using Doppler testing, a high-frequency sound wave that bounces off of red blood cells. It’s far more detailed than a traditional ultrasound and will display images on a monitor. In some cases, a carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) test may also be completed to evaluate the thickness of the artery’s inner layers.
Narrowed blood vessels can be extremely dangerous and lead to a host of medical emergencies, so it’s important to have a carotid ultrasound completed if you’re at risk of cardiovascular disease. This procedure can also help to locate blood clots, detect artery abnormalities, and evaluate the success of certain surgeries. Once a carotid ultrasound has been completed, your cardiologist will use the data to develop a treatment plan.