Cartoid Ultrasounds

One of the scariest aspects of a stroke is its unpredictability.

From one moment to the next, a person can seem fine only to be thrown into a potentially life-ending event.

But a new scan, called a cartoid ultrasound, may save your life, News 2's Paul Moniz reports.

The painless, 15-minute test detects narrowing in the two major arteries which supply blood to the brain which, when blocked, can cause a stroke.

Dr. Mark Adelman, a vascular surgeon at NYU Medical Center, believes the ultrasound, named after the two arteries, is an important weapon against strokes.

"If we can identify plaques in the cartoid arteries and treat those plaques before they cause strokes or mini-strokes," he says, "we can prevent many strokes down the road."

When he finds diseased cartoid arteries, he moves quickly, sending patients to the operating room to have the arteries opened up and the life-threatening plaque scooped out with a spatula.

Despite its benefits, cartoid ultrasound cannot identify all patients at risk for stroke.

Experts say only one in three strokes involves blockages in the cartoid.

It is not believed that former president Gerald Ford's stroke could have been detected by this method.

Still, Dr. Adelman says some patients with certain risk factors should be screened as a precaution.

"Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol," he says. "And a strong family history of blockage in the body."

The downside to the ultrasound is its $350 price tag, which is generally not covered by insurance unless a patient already predisposed.

Doctors recommend screening high risk patients at 50, those with moderate risk at 60.

Stethoscopes can sometimes detect cartoid narrowing, with doctors listening for a "wooshing" sound.

But that sound is not always present with disease and angiograms can also show narrowing, but that test is invasive.

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