Transcranial Ultrasound to Detect Cerebral Emboli

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Swedish Vascular Ultrasound

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The majority of strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s, or “mini-strokes”) are the result of cerebral emboli. Emboli are formed elements and/or clots that can break off from a distant site (such as the heart) and migrate downstream, lodging in a brain artery, or they may form at the site of a diseased vessel. They frequently originate from the heart or from the rupture of an unstable plaque in a large artery.

The purpose of cerebral emboli monitoring is to track if these emboli are present in the bloodstream. Very small micro emboli can be detected and counted using transcranial Doppler (TCD) technology by monitoring the intracranial arteries.

TCD monitoring exam for the detection of microemboli

Test Indications

• Stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) patients with presumed cardiac or arterial sources of cerebral embolization
• Monitor during endovascular and surgical carotid and cardiac procedures

What to Expect

Prior to test

There is no preparation required

At the Testing Center

• You will be asked about your medical and surgical history
• You may have your blood pressure taken
• You may be allowed to have a family member or friend with you in the exam room during the test

During the Exam

• You will lie comfortably on a stretcher in the testing room; the lights will be dimmed
• The technologist will position a band-like frame to your head to hold the ultrasound transducers in place during the testing
• You will need to lie quietly for between 20 – 60 minutes while your blood flow is monitored
• Doppler ultrasound amplifies the sound of the blood flow and you will hear a sound like a heartbeat
• The technologist will remove the ultrasound transducers and the ultrasound gel will be removed with a soft cloth

When the Exam is Done

You will be ready to leave depending on the results. If the technologist has critical findings, you will be asked to wait at the facility for further instructions from your doctor after the results are shared. The technologist may need to take more images if requested by your physician.

How Long Will it Take?

40 – 60 minutes

Will it Hurt?

The exam is non-invasive and painless.


A specialized physician will analyze the images and send a report to your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about the results and any further tests or treatments. After the test, call your doctor if you have worsening symptoms.