Review

Carotid Artery Examination, An Important Tool in Patient Evaluation

Authors: Christopher A. Pickett, MD, Jeffrey L. Jackson, MD, MPH, Brian A. Hemann, MD, J. Edwin Atwood, MD

Abstract

Examination of the arteries is an age old medical tradition. Examination of the carotid artery is of unique importance because it is an easily accessible large artery. Through the methods of inspection, palpation, and auscultation, carotid artery examination gives clinicians important diagnostic clues about the health and disease of the patient. Inspection and palpation of the carotid give insight into left ventricular systolic function and distinguish types of valvular heart disease. Auscultation identifies patients with high-risk atherosclerosis. In most cases carotid examination is neither sensitive nor specific, but in the correct clinical context it offers important evidence leading to specific diagnoses and treatment. In this review, we discuss the examination of the carotid artery under normal conditions and describe how abnormalities in the carotid artery examination are indicators of disease.

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