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Ultrasound in Neurological Condition Diagnosis

There are a variety of techniques that use ultrasound technology to help doctors pinpoint exactly what is going on with a patient's nervous system and what may be causing a neurological condition, including neuromusculoskeletal disorders, to present itself. This type of examination uses sound waves to capture images of what is going on inside the body.

Carotid Duplex Ultrasound

This procedure utilizes ultrasound to help identify blood clots, plaque or other problems with the flow of blood through the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are major blood vessels in the neck responsible for supplying blood to the brain, neck and face. When a problem occurs with one or both of these arteries, it can cause a problem with blood flow, potentially damaging the brain and nervous system - and manifesting as a host of neurological conditions.

Before the carotid duplex ultrasound, a cool gel is placed on the area of the skin that is to be imaged. This gel helps the ultrasound technologist maneuver a device called a transducer easily around the skin. During the carotid duplex ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves are transmitted through to the arteries being examined. This enables the ultrasound technologist to capture images of the carotid arteries that a neurologist can later view as an aid in diagnosis.

Doppler Ultrasound

This type of ultrasound test is also used to detect blocked blood vessels or blood clots, but unlike the carotid duplex ultrasound, the Doppler ultrasound is useful in detecting such blockages in any part of the body, especially in the arms and legs. The preparation for a Doppler ultrasound is the same as it is for the carotid duplex ultrasound. During this examination, the technologist is listening for a "swooshing" sound to be picked up. This signifies "normal" flow of blood through the veins that are being tested. When this "swooshing" sound is not present, additional testing may be needed to determine the exact source and extent of the blockage.

Both the carotid duplex ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound procedures are:

  • Performed on an outpatient basis
  • Painless and non-invasive, meaning they do not penetrate the skin.
  • Quick - They take less than 30 minutes to accomplish in most cases
  • Safe - There is no exposure to ionizing radiation during these ultrasound procedures and are not associated with risk to the patient

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