What is a Carotid Artery Doppler Ultrasound Exam?

A carotid artery Doppler ultrasound is a diagnostic test used to check the circulation in the large arteries in the neck. This exam shows any blockage in the veins by a blood clot or “thrombus” formation.

Normal Circulation

There are two arteries in your neck, the left and right carotid arteries. Each of these branch upward into the internal and external carotid arteries. These arteries are responsible for blood flow to your brain.

Any blockage of these arteries can result in brain damage or strokes.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for strokes include smoking, salt intake, being overweight, not getting enough exercise, stress and taking birth control pills. Other risk factors include your age, gender, race and heredity.


If your doctor thinks you might be at risk for stroke, he may order a carotid Doppler examination.

Getting Ready for the Exam

You will come to the Vascular Lab for a carotid Doppler exam. This test involves no needles, catheters or dye. Ultrasound is used to listen to the flow of the blood through the arteries in your neck. The exam may take up to one hour.

What Will I Feel During the Exam?

Don’t worry – since there are no needles or anything else inserted into your body, the test is completely painless and has no side effects. You will be asked to lie down on a stretcher. The technician will ask you several questions about why your physician ordered the exam. The recordings are received by running a small, smooth probe gently over various parts of your neck and jaw area. This will show if there is blockage in the large arteries of the neck.

The doctor who ordered the test for you will receive the results within two to three days and tell you what they mean. The vascular technician will notify your physician while you are still present if he or she suspects a serious condition.

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