Carotid Intima Media Thickness Test in Mobile, AL
Atherosclerosis is a specific form of arteriosclerosis which creates plaque buildup inside your arteries. This plaque buildup occurs when white blood cell invade and accumulate in the arteries, causing the proliferation of fibrofatty plaque (the combination of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin, a clotting material in the blood) which causes artery-walls to thicken. Atherosclerosis may cause partial or total blockage of blood flow through arteries in the heart, brain, pelvis, legs, arms or kidneys, and increases your risk of developing such health conditions as coronary heart disease, angina (chest pain), carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and chronic kidney disease. Plaque buildup also contributes to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Fortunately, there are preventive measures you can take to assess your risk of atherosclerosis, or to assess the extent of atherosclerosis already in progress. A Carotid Intima Media Thickness Test (CIMT) is a diagnostic test a healthcare provider may recommend which can help detect atherosclerosis and predict your risk for developing several different cardiovascular health conditions.
To schedule a carotid artery scan with a qualified healthcare provider in Mobile, call (334) 781-7319 or contact Dr. Ryan McWhorter online.
What Is a Carotid Intima Media Thickness Test?
A carotid intima media thickness test, or CIMT scan, is used to measure the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery—the intima and media—to evaluate the artery’s overall health, provide early detection for atherosclerosis and determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and the potential of experiencing a stroke. Typically, a physical exam will precede a CIMT scan, the latter of which is used diagnostically. Weakened pulse, decreased blood pressure and whooshing sounds heard through a stethoscope in the area of your arteries will trigger further testing.
If your healthcare provider suspects that you have plaque buildup, a carotid ultrasound (an ultrasound of the carotid arteries in your neck) will be recommended. Studies show that carotid plaque volumes more accurately estimate a patient’s risk of coronary artery disease as well as stroke.
A carotid ultrasound uses soundwaves to detect and quantify the development of atherosclerosis before symptoms present, also indicating your risk for the condition. A carotid ultrasound can confirm the existence of plaque in the arteries to determine a treatment course, especially as it relates to managing risk factors causally related with heart disease and stroke.
During your carotid ultrasound, your healthcare provider will likely ask you to lie down in a position which provides access to your neck. A gel-like substance will be applied to your skin above the site of each carotid artery, after which an ultrasound probe will be gently placed to both sides of your neck (to visualize carotid arteries on both sides of your neck). Using sophisticated digital imaging, an ultrasound can accurately visualize your arteries to detect plaque if and where present. Ultrasounds are particularly beneficial as they provide a non-invasive way to detect artery-thickening and also does not involve any X-ray radiation.
Unlike a Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA), which has traditionally been used to detect plaque buildup and typically requires a visit to a hospital or advanced imaging center, a CIMT scan can be completed in less than 15 minutes in the comfort of your healthcare provider’s office. A CIMT scan is also less expensive than a CCTA and does not expose you to radiation. In addition, the CIMT scan is as sensitive and effective a test as the CCTA, with research indicating similar results between the two exams.
Who Should Have a Carotid Intima Media Thickness Test?
CIMT scans should typically be completed if you have one of the following risk factors:
- A family history of heart attack and/or stroke
- Abnormal cholesterol levels (high LDL or “bad” cholesterol, low HDL or “good” cholesterol or elevated triglycerides)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Smoking (current or former)
- Diabetes or metabolic syndrome
- Overweight or physically inactive or unhealthy lifestyle
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic inflammatory disease or disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, HIV or inflammatory bowel disease
If your CIMT scan confirms that you have a buildup of plaque in your arteries or suffer from full-blown atherosclerosis, your healthcare provider will likely recommend lifestyle modifications as a mediation to support your overall health. This will include dietary modifications which limit (or eliminate entirely) saturated fats to reduce cholesterol buildup and further narrowing of the arteries and reducing your alcohol intake. Further, supplements may be recommended by your healthcare provider, like omega-3 fish oil and CoQ10 to support healthy cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health. You’ll also likely be advised to become more physically active and to quit smoking. In more severe cases, prescription medications and surgery like a carotid endarterectomy will be recommended.
Atherosclerosis puts you at an increased risk of potentially hazardous cardiovascular conditions. Schedule a carotid artery scan with a qualified healthcare provider in Mobile. Call (334) 781-7319 or contact Dr. Ryan McWhorter online.
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