Harvard Health Letter

Routine screening of the carotid arteries not recommended

The carotid (pronounced ka-RAH-ted) arteries in the neck are the main supply route for blood to get to the brain. But atherosclerotic plaque can gum them up, just as it does the coronary arteries that provision the heart. If that plaque ruptures, blood clots can form that block the carotids or other, smaller arteries, resulting in an ischemic stroke.

Narrowed carotid arteries can be identified with an ultrasound before a stroke occurs. The examinations are noninvasive and inexpensive. Some hospitals are charging the public as little as $45 for an ultrasound of their carotid arteries.

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