Choosing Wisely:

Avoid use of ultrasound for routine surveillance of carotid arteries in the asymptomatic healthy population at any time.

Rationale and Comments: The presence of a bruit alone does not warrant serial duplex ultrasounds in low-risk, asymptomatic patients, unless significant stenosis is found on the initial duplex ultrasound. The presence of asymptomatic severe carotid artery disease in the general population yields a risk of neurologic event, which is <2%. Even in patients who have a bruit, if no other risk factors exist, the incidence is only 2%. Age (over 65), coronary artery disease, need for coronary bypass, symptomatic lower extremity arterial occlusive disease, history of tobacco use, and high cholesterol would be appropriate risk factors to prompt ultrasound in patients with a bruit. Otherwise, these ultrasounds may prompt unnecessary and more expensive and invasive tests, or even unnecessary surgery. In general population-based studies, the prevalence of severe carotid stenosis is not high enough to make bruit alone an indication for carotid screening. With these facts in mind, screening should be pursued only if a bruit is associated with other risk factors for stenosis and stroke, or if the primary care physician determines a patient is at increased risk for carotid artery occlusive disease.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • Society for Vascular Surgery
  • Sources:
  • Society for Vascular Surgery guidelines
  • Disciplines:
  • Cardiovascular
  • Preventive Medicine
  • References: • Ricotta JJ, Aburahma A, Ascher E, Eskandari M, Faries P, Lal BK; Society for Vascular Surgery. Updated Society for Vascular Surgery guidelines for management of extracranial carotid disease. J Vasc Surg. 2011;54(3):e1-31.
    • Jacobowitz GR, Rockman CB, Gagne PJ, Adelman MA, Lamparello PJ, Landis R, Riles TS. A model for predicting occult carotid artery stenosis: screening is justified in a selected population. J Vasc Surg. 2003;38(4):705-9.
    • Qureshi AI, Janardhan V, Bennett SE, Luft AR, Hopkins LN, Guterman LR. Who should be screened for asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis? Experience from the Western New York stroke screening program. J Neuroimaging. 2001;11(2):105-11.

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