Carotid Artery Disease Test & Screening | Life Line Screening

Carotid Artery Disease Test

The carotid arteries are the two large blood vessels on each side of the neck that supply blood to the brain. When the carotid arteries become clogged with plaque, they become narrower, affecting blood flow. If any of the plaque breaks off, it can block the blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. The carotid artery screening test uses ultrasound to identify the presence of plaque in the carotid arteries, which can develop over time without causing any symptoms.

About Carotid Artery Disease 

Carotid Artery Disease is when plaque starts to collect and build up in the carotid arteries, the large arteries in the neck that take blood to your brain. Plaque consists of cholesterol, calcium, and other cellular substances that collect in the artery, making the artery stiffer and narrower. Clogged arteries do not deliver blood and oxygen as well as they should to the brain. Carotid Artery Disease develops as people age, and most often people experience no symptoms. People who have carotid artery disease, which is a form of atherosclerosis, can often have plaque buildup in arteries in other parts of the body. Carotid artery plaque is a major risk factor for stroke. During a stroke, the loss of blood supply causes the brain cells begin to die within minutes. For 4 out of 5 people who have a stroke, the first symptom they experience is the stroke.1

Carotid Artery Disease Screening Details

This ultrasound screening is painless, non-invasive, and does not require the removal of any clothing. While the participant reclines on their back, the technician will use color flow ultrasound technology to create images of the carotid arteries while also measuring blood flow through them. After a board-certified physician reviews the results from the screening, the results letter will indicate the degree of plaque buildup for each of your two arteries on a scale of normal (no plaque identified and blood flow is normal) to significant (large amount of plaque identified, and blood flow is significantly reduced).

This allows people with normal, mild , or moderate blockage to compare the results of each screening to the previous results, determining if the plaque buildup has gotten worse. Plaque buildup can be progressive without treatment, getting worse over time. If the plaque breaks off, it can block blood flow or cause blood clots, which are dangerous if they travel to the brain. Plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) can occur in any of the arteries in the body. This is one reason the simple, non-invasive ultrasound of the carotid artery test is so valuable: it can help people understand the risk of developing atherosclerosis in other areas of the body as well.

Warning Signs of Carotid Artery Disease

In its early stages, plaque builds up silently, without causing any pain, discomfort, or any other symptoms. That is one reason that getting a carotid artery test for blockage is so important for people who have any of the listed risk factors. The plaque buildup, which usually gets worse with age, can go unnoticed until it is serious enough to deprive your brain of blood, causing a stroke. Warning signs of a stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in face or limbs
  • Sudden difficulty talking
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache
  • Sudden trouble seeing

Risk Factors for Carotid Artery Disease

  • Age 40+
  • Family history of coronary artery disease, heart disease, or stroke
  • Smoking (past or present)
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity

Who is this screening for?

Carotid Artery plaque test is for adults with risk factors for atherosclerosis (see list at right), which includes having a family history of stroke or heart disease.

Ages

40+, and especially people with any of the risk factors for developing atherosclerosis.

Frequency

People at risk for developing this disease (i.e., atherosclerosis) can benefit from having a carotid artery test every year.

Relevant Tests

Annual Key Health-Men and Women
Annual Key Health - Men and Women
EKG electrodes
Atrial Fibrillation
Peripheral Artery Disease Screening
Peripheral Arterial Disease

1National Stroke Association, www.stroke.org