Carotid artery blockage can deprive the brain of oxygen, and result in life-threatening conditions. In this article, we shed light on various diagnostic tests that are used to detect blockages in carotid arteries.
One of the most important components of the human anatomy, the brain consumes a significant amount of oxygen that we breathe. Oxygenated blood is supplied to the brain by carotid arteries. One can say that these arteries play a crucial role in smooth functioning of our brain, especially because restricted oxygen supply to it can trigger some serious complications in the body.
Any problem with carotid arteries can disrupt blood supply to brain, thus depriving it of oxygen and resulting in further complications. If any sign of such complication is observed, the person should be immediately subjected to carotid artery blockage tests, i.e., the diagnostic tests to determine the seriousness of the issue.
Carotid Artery Blockage
Carotid arteries are the two large arteries located on the either side of the neck, which are assigned the task of supplying blood to our brain. Decrease in blood supply to the brain tends to deprive it of oxygen, which, in turn, can result in mild to severe complications, ranging from hallucinations to stroke or death. These arteries can get blocked due to plaque build up as a result of accumulation of fats and body cells in it, which eventually obstructs the flow of blood to the brain.
The initial symptoms of this condition include headache, temporary loss of vision, difficulty in speaking, etc. The condition worsens with time and eventually the person may experience various symptoms of stroke including loss of motor coordination and temporary numbness in various parts of the body. The worst part is that these symptoms start surfacing long after the plaque starts to build up.
The patient is subjected to a series of diagnostic tests to determine the extent of blockage and the rate of blood flow. If a blockage exists, the flow of blood tends to make a distinct rushing sound known as bruit. It is a sound or murmur heard by the doctor when he uses the stethoscope to listen to sounds within the body. As a part of the diagnosis, the medical history of the person is also taken into consideration.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
In the magnetic resonance imaging test, an image of carotid arteries is produced with the help of magnetic fields and radio waves. This image can give a clear picture of the blockage and help in determining the rate at which blood is flowing through the artery.
In cerebral angiogram, the blockage in carotid arteries is determined by taking an X-ray. Before taking the X-ray, a contrast dye is injected into the carotid arteries. The dye, which is either blue or black in color, takes a particular path through the arteries, on the basis of which the exact size and location of the blockage is determined.
Computer Tomography (CT)
In this test, 2D and 3D scans of the brain are taken and examined to detect blood flow through the arteries. This is one of the best tests for carotid artery blockage, as it detects the blockages as well as the rate at which the blood is flowing.
Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)
At times, the doctor may recommend a combination of the two procedures―CT scan and angiography, in order to get a clear picture of the carotid arteries. This procedure is referred to as computed tomography angiography or CTA.
Carotid Duplex Ultrasound
In this test, a specialized probe, which sends high-frequency sound waves through the arteries, is held against the neck of the patient. The image produced by this probe can be viewed on the computer. By studying this image, the doctor can determine the rate at which blood is flowing through the carotid arteries and also detect any irregularities in these arteries.
In most of the cases, the treatment of this condition depends on the results of these tests. If the issue is not very serious, the doctor might prescribe some medication and blood thinners, as a part of the treatment process. If the problem is serious, the patient will be left with no option, but to opt for a surgical process, wherein the blocked artery will be opened and plaque will be removed.