Assessment of carotid artery ultrasonography in the presence of an acoustic shadow artifact

Estelle E. Seyman*, Natan Bornstein, Eitan Auriel, Oren Cohen, Tania Nissel, Hen Hallevi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: B-mode and Color Doppler ultrasonography (CDUS) are the methods of choice for screening and determining the degree of Carotid artery stenosis. The evaluation of stenosis with calcification may be hampered by a common CDUS artifact known as acoustic shadow (AS). Our objective was to assess the change in reliability of CDUS readings in the presence of an AS artifact. Methods: Single center retrospective observational study. Included were patients with either an AS artifact or high-grade stenosis (defined by peak systolic velocity (PSV) > 240 cm/s) demonstrated in CDUS, and had a CT angiography (CTA) done within 6 months of the sonographic exam. All subjects were identified through the Tel-Aviv Sorasky medical center (TASMC) CDUS unit registry from which clinical information was extracted. CDUS images were manually reviewed grading AS magnitude. All CTAs were reviewed and reconstructed for accurate assessment of percent stenosis and were used as gold standard. Results: The study cohort included 227 consecutive patients (corresponding with 454 internal carotid arteries) meeting inclusion criteria. 43.2% of the arteries (n = 195) had an AS artifact present on CDUS, regardless of percent stenosis, with a large artifact present in 6.7% arteries (n = 30). Older age was significantly related to the presence of AS artifact (p < 0.001). In the study cohort as a whole there was a strong correlation between percent stenosis on CTA and PSV values (Pearson's r 0.672, p < 0.001) regardless of AS existence. The CDUS sensitivity and specificity for predicting severe stenosis were 82 and 73% respectively. The presence of a small AS slightly diminished the correlation between CDUS and CTA results without compromising CDUS reliability. A large AS severely affected the correlation between CDUS and CTA exams (Pearson's r = 0.24, p = 0.27) and reduced CDUS reliability with a sensitivity and specificity of 62%. Conclusion: The presence of a large AS severely degrades the accuracy of the routine CDUS measurements. In these cases, the patient should be referred to a CDUS exam including doppler-measurement of periorbital arteries and intracranial arteries in addition to other imaging modalities such as CTA or MRA in order to assess future stroke risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number178
JournalBMC Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 29 Jul 2019


  • Acoustic shadow
  • Carotid artery stenosis
  • Color Doppler ultrasound
  • Ischemic stroke


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