Diagnosis of Carotid Artery Disease
During a physical exam, a doctor listens to the arteries in your neck. When a significant blockage is present, abnormal flow sounds are heard. Then, if a doctor suspects carotid artery disease, there are several tests that can be done to evaluate the carotid arteries for blockage. These include:
- Carotid Ultrasound: A non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to measure blood flow through the carotid arteries. This painless test determines the presence of plaque build up as well as the severity of the blockage.
- Carotid Angiography: A minimally invasive method of evaluating the blood flow in the carotid arteries using contrast material and live x-ray images.
- Computerized Tomography Angiography (CTA): Uses special x-ray equipment and contrast material to produce multi-dimensional pictures of your carotid arteries.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): Uses a series of magnets, radio-frequency pulses, and contrast material to produce images of the blood vessels in your neck.
Treatment of Carotid Artery Disease
Your healthcare provider will determine the best treatment option for you based on your medical history and the severity of your disease. A majority of patients who are diagnosed with mild to moderate carotid artery disease before symptoms develop can be treated with medication, risk factor management, and follow-up ultrasounds. For those patients who experience symptoms or are diagnosed with more severe disease, surgical options include:
- Carotid Endarterectomy: An open surgical repair by a small incision in the neck that cleans out the plaque build-up and/or replaces the diseased segment with a patch or bypass graft.
- Carotid Stent: A minimally-invasive procedure using catheter insertion in the groin and stent placement within the diseased segment of the artery.