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Carotid Duplex Scanning

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 26 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Carotid Duplex Scan Carotid Arteries

A carotid duplex scan is a type of test used to provide medical professionals with detailed information regarding the circulation of blood from the heart through the neck to the head.

What Exactly Is This Test?

Before having this test a patient may have been to their GP with symptoms of headaches, dizziness, tiredness and a change in bodily functions in areas such as speech, movement or thought processes. The GP, after careful assessment and examination, may suspect that arterial disease may be to blame and have referred the patient for this test. Alternatively, the test may be required after surgery on the heart or circulatory system and is used to evaluate the success of the procedure.

Using ultrasound waves and non-invasive probe, the overall health of the carotid arteries can be measured.Within the anatomy of the neck lie four carotid arteries, divided into pairs with each pair being made up of an internal and an external artery, and each pair is located on each side of the neck. The scan is carried out to asses the blood flow through these arteries and can detect whether there are any plaques (fatty deposits built up within the vessels) that may have caused either narrowing or blockage of the vessels and it can also assess the speed and flow direction of the blood.

What Is Involved In The Test?

A carotid duplex scan is a painless procedure often carried out as an out-patient or sometimes as an in-patient, and can be performed after a surgical procedure such as bypass grafting, aiming to evaluate the success of the operation.

During the procedure, the patient is usually asked to remove all jewellery from around the neck and to either loosen clothes or wear a gown provided by the hospital.The practitioner will then place some gel on to the neck (the gel may or may not be warmed), and a probe placed onto the gel. Using small but precise movements, the probe is manipulated until a pulse rate can be heard. The practitioner will listen to the sound and compare the sounds from different angles and aspects in order to make an assessment of the vessels. The procedure will then be performed on the other side of the neck. When a satisfactory assessment has been made, the gel will be simply wiped off and normal activity can be resumed.

In most cases, the test will be completed within thirty minutes. For those who are obese, the test may take slightly longer as it can be more difficult to obtain a sound or find the correct site of the vessels.

Are There Any Risks Involved?

The procedure is painless and the only discomfort that may be experienced is from lying down for so long or being still for a while. Please speak to your healthcare provider regarding any issues surrounding mobility restrictions that may hinder the procedure.

Carotid duplex scanning is a test used to assess the overall health of the carotid arteries, which supply blood and oxygen to the brain. If these vessels become blocked or narrowed the chances of stroke or altered function is greatly increased. It is a safe and pain free procedure and can be performed as an out-patient.

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