Carotid artery screening is a special test done to screen for carotid artery disease. This disease happens when cholesterol plaque builds up in the walls of the carotid arteries which are located on each side of your neck. These arteries control the blood flow from the heart to the brain. Symptoms of the disease are not often present until it is too late such as when a stroke happens. This is why carotid artery screening is so important.
The screening process for carotid artery disease is pretty simple. Blood tests, genetics tests, and imaging test are all used in conjunction to determine a person’s risk or if they have the disease. If they are at risk or showing symptoms, more specific tests can be done.
Ultrasound imaging is the tool doctors use to determine if there is a buildup of plaque or any stress happening in the carotid arteries. This technique is noninvasive and involves taking pictures through sound waves of the neck and chest. Doppler imaging is a special technique in Ultrasound that is used to measure blood flow through the arteries.
Patients will relax on their backs for the imagining screening and most likely be asked to roll over to each side. A water based gel will be rubbed onto the areas that are being imaged to help the hand held tool (transducer) to make contact and reduce air pockets. The transducer will be moved over the areas where images are needed and send sound waves into the body.
There is no risk of harm involved with this screening as it is non-invasive. Patients are awake and require no anesthesia or pain medication for the procedure. There are no after care procedures to be aware of, and the entire process takes a few minutes.
Depending on the test results and the severity of the blockage, the doctor may prescribe a lifestyle change which includes exercising, diet control, and weight loss. Medication for blood pressure and cholesterol may also be given. Severe cases may be need to have a stent or angioplasty done to remove the blockage and open up blood flow.
Because carotid artery disease can be a precursor for stroke, it is very important that those who may be at a higher risk have a screening performed since, in many cases, there are no warning signs prior to stroke. Risk factors that doctors will look at when considering if you are eligible for a carotid artery screening include:
- History of medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
- If you are a smoker
- If you are obese
- Your personal level of physical activity
- Family history of any stroke or atherosclerosis
- Any other artery diseases or aneurysms that are present or in medical history
The Radiology Clinic’s professional, experienced, and caring Radiologists and Sonographers are happy to provide carotid artery screening ultrasounds to our community. Contact us today!