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Ultrasound scan of your carotid arteries

Patient information A-Z

ultrasound probe on patient's neck

What is a carotid ultrasound scan?

A carotid ultrasound scan may also be called a 'carotid duplex' or 'carotid Doppler'. This test uses ultrasound to produce images of the main arteries in the neck which carry blood to the eyes and brain. It is a safe and effective way to assess the blood flow and can determine whether there are any narrowings or blockages in the arteries.

The test is painless and does not use any radiation or needles. There are no risks associated with this test. The test can take up to 30 minutes.

common carotid, external carotid and internal carotid arteries in the neck

About the test

Where do I go?

The Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) is on Level 5 of the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre (ATC). Please inform reception of your arrival straight away. There are often other clinics in progress, so you may not be called in order of arrival. You may bring a relative or friend in with you during the test or request a chaperone if you would like one.

What is consent?

Before your test is performed, you must give your consent or permission. Consent is the process by which you give permission to healthcare professionals to provide your care and treatment. It may be implied (offering your arm for a blood pressure reading) or formal (signing a formal consent form for an operation). In either case your consent must be given voluntarily, and you must have all the information you need to make a decision. If you feel you do not have enough information or do not understand the procedure, please ask.

How is a carotid ultrasound scan performed?

There is no preparation needed; you may eat and drink as usual prior to the test. You do not have to remove your hearing aid or glasses, but it may be helpful to remove any other accessories or clothing so that your neck is accessible.

A clinical vascular scientist (who might be male or female) will perform and interpret your ultrasound scan. You will be asked to lie on a couch with your head on a pillow. The lights will be dimmed to allow the best images to be obtained. Gel will be applied to your neck and the scientist will move the ultrasound probe up and down your neck to view the length of the carotid arteries. During the test, you may hear some 'swooshing' noises from the ultrasound machine; these sounds are normal.

What happens next?

The clinical vascular scientist can comment briefly on the findings and will write a report for the consultant who requested the test. You will be able to discuss the results of this investigation fully with the referring team at your next outpatient appointment.

In rare cases, the clinical vascular scientist may need to discuss the result with a doctor before you leave.

Contacts / further information

If you require further information, please do not hesitate to call the Vascular Studies Unit (VSU) on 01223 348117.

Privacy and dignity

Same sex bays and bathrooms are offered in all wards except critical care and theatre recovery areas where the use of high-tech equipment and/or specialist one-to-one care is required.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151