Carotid Artery Ultrasound
A carotid Doppler ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to generate images of the carotid arteries within the neck. The carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain, which is essential for many neurological functions. This test allows your doctor to detect any narrowing of the arteries. It also can help establish how quickly blood flows through the carotid arteries to evaluate a patient's risk of stroke or other cardiovascular complications. The carotid ultrasound shows detailed images of the structure of the carotid arteries.
This procedure is usually performed to diagnose carotid artery disease in patients who are beginning to display symptoms or who are at a high risk for the condition. This includes patients at an advanced age or who have been diagnosed with diabetes or high cholesterol. The carotid Doppler ultrasound is most commonly performed on patients who:
- Recently had a stroke
- Have an abnormal sound in the carotid artery
- May have blood clots in the carotid artery
- Have damage in the walls of the carotid artery
- Recently had carotid artery surgery
During the ultrasound procedure, the patient will lie on his or her back and the doctor will apply a cool gel to the portions of the neck where the arteries are located. A transducer will then be moved over the area to give off sound waves and produce images of the arteries. These images are displayed on a computer screen during the test. Different colors that appear on the images determine the speed of the blood flowing through. A carotid Doppler ultrasound can be performed in your doctor's office and usually takes less than 30 minutes.
There are no risks associated with a carotid Doppler ultrasound and patients can return to their regular activities immediately after. Your doctor will discuss the results of the carotid Doppler ultrasound with you right after the exam.
Nerve Conduction Testing
Nerve conduction testing is utilized to determine if the patient is suffering from nerve damage or inherent deficiency. This allows the doctor to either rule out or confirm a diagnosis of nervous system issues, instead of musculoskeletal problems that could cause similar symptoms. This form of testing can also help to establish the source of nerve damage, such as substance abuse, nerve compression or another peripheral neuropathy, as the specific cause can be vital to effective treatment.
Nerve conduction studies are often performed in conjunction with electromyography, which helps to diagnose muscle disease and neuromuscular conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
The nerves are essentially electrical systems and are thus best observed using an oscilloscope. This device displays signal voltages and charts them along a graph according to time. Electrodes are attached to the skin to deliver mild electrical impulses and then record the body’s response.
This allows the oscilloscope to show exactly how long it takes a nerve to respond to direct stimulation, as well as the magnitude of such response. This vital information is contained within the frequency and amplitude of the resulting graph. In addition, the overall shape of the impulse graph can be also be used for diagnostic purposes.
The electric activity produced by the neural network is inherently variable in all humans due to complicating factors such as height, weight, sex, age and body temperature. However, the diagnostic value of the nerve conduction study is still effective in determining activation velocities that are outside of the normal range. These abnormal values can help ensure a correct diagnosis.
The test itself is non-invasive and evokes no side effects whatsoever. However, there may be a varying degree of discomfort due to the multiple low-intensity electric pulses sent through the electrodes. Additionally, the paste or gel used to affix the electrodes securely onto the skin may irritate certain people with extremely sensitive skin.
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