Carotid artery ultrasound: A probe placed against the skin reflects sound waves off the carotid artery, and a computer constructs images on a screen. Doppler ultrasound can be used to measure blood flow in the carotid artery, including any areas of narrowing, or stenosis.
Carotid artery angiography, known as an angiogram: Contrast dye is injected into blood vessels, and X-rays are taken of the neck, revealing images of the carotid arteries. A narrowing, or stenosis, and a bulging, or aneurysm, in the carotid artery may be detected by angiography.
Computed tomography angiography (CTA scan): A CT scanner takes multiple X-rays, and a computer compiles them into images of the carotid artery and other arteries of the neck and brain. Contrast dye injected into the blood vessels can help reveal more details of the carotid arteries, such as narrowing or bulging, aiding diagnosis.
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA scan): An MRI scanner uses a high-powered magnet and a computer to create highly detailed images of the carotid artery and other arteries that supply the brain. MRA is superior to CT scanning in detecting strokes and most carotid artery problems.
Carotid sinus massage: In a controlled setting, a doctor massages the neck directly over the carotid sinus. This maneuver may unmask carotid sinus problems and can be used to treat certain abnormal heart rhythms.