The Need for Carotid Artery Stenosis Ultrasound
Carotid Artery Disease is the narrowing of the arteries located in the neck. When a waxy substance called plaque collects in the inner lining of these main blood vessels, the path for blood is blocked. This plaque consists of fatty compounds, cholesterol, debris and dead white blood cells. The importance of the Carotid Arteries cannot be mentioned enough, since they supply blood to the most important organ of the body-the brain.
The main Carotid arteries are located on either side of the neck, and are responsible for supplying blood to these respective regions of the head. These main vessels branch out into internal and external carotid arteries. The internal ones supply oxygenated blood to the brain, while the external ones perform the same function for the face, scalp and neck.
It is for this reason that when a Carotid Artery Stenosis Ultrasound is performed, both sides of the neck are examined to pinpoint which artery is damaged. A Carotid Artery Stenosis Ultrasound can reveal the exact location of the clot or plaque accumulation in a stroke patient.
How Does Carotid Artery Stenosis Cause Stroke
Carotid Artery Inflammation is a prime cause of stroke. The brain cells and tissues are extremely sensitive to changes in blood supply and pressure build up. Since the internal carotid arteries are responsible for taking blood to the brain, any hindrance in their path can be detrimental.
In most patients, the presence of atherosclerotic plaque is not felt in the initial stages, meaning, carotid artery pain symptoms do not appear at all. It is only when the plaque grows and starts hindering the flow of blood that the signs and symptoms of this disease are experienced.
Hence, because of the gradual collection of debris and cholesterol, the arteries become inflamed. Carotid artery stenosis, i.e. narrowing of the arteries is the result of this inflammation. Since the plaque has now become obstructive to blood flow, the brain cells may be deprived of oxygen, and the much needed energy, to perform their critical function.
If the brain continues to function despite carotid artery stenosis, an even worse situation can develop. Oftentimes, carotid artery inflammation results in plaque rupture. The accumulated plaque breaks away from its source and travels with the following blood, while platelets collect and clump together at the site of the breakage.
In the internal carotid arteries, the destination of this ruptured plaque formation is the brain. It can travel to the brain and get stuck in one of its small arteries, completing blocking it and preventing any blood from reaching the tissues. Such an intense deprivation can kill the brain cells in a matter of second.
A stroke as a result of Carotid Artery Stenosis is a medical emergency, and if not looked after immediately, can lead to irreparable damage. Before such a severe stroke attack is felt, many patients experience what is called an ischemic attack. This type of stroke results because of a temporary shortage of blood to the brain owing to carotid artery inflammation.
Carotid Artery Pain Symptoms
As mentioned previously, this disease does not produce signs and symptoms in its early stages. Hence, a carotid artery stenosis ultrasound is often not even performed. Only when the plaque formation hits a certain stage, does carotid artery pain symptoms start to surface.
Some of the major symptoms include:
• Sudden Numbness of Limbs and Face: Lack of sensation in these parts is a result of a lack of function of brain cells in the brain. Numbness is often restricted to one side of body- depending on which carotid arteries are blocked.
• Trouble with Vision: Since eye movements are one of the most crucial responsibilities of the brain, they are adversely affected when the brain cells are deprived of oxygenated blood. Difficulty in seeing can be in one or both eyes.
• Loss of Balance: Feeling dizzy and losing control while walking is another common carotid artery pain symptom. Muscle coordination in the brain is responsible for the balancing of the body, if the flow of blood to the area of the brain responsible for this activity is impeded by stenosis, an individual will find it difficult to carry him or herself.
• Trouble Speaking: Carotid artery pain symptoms include difficulty speaking and understanding what is being said. The brain’s ability to decipher words is adversely affected by a stroke.
• The onset of sharp, sudden and severe headaches is a warning sign: When there is no other known cause for such headaches, they should not be taken lightly.
Medical experts assert that even if carotid artery pain symptoms are felt only for a few seconds, they should not be ignored. While the sudden disappearance of the symptoms suggests that the plaque obstruction is not fatal yet, it definitely indicates a worsening condition. Getting a carotid artery stenosis ultrasound done with mild symptoms is the best way to pre-empt a stroke and take appropriate measures to ensure minimal damage to the brain.
Carotid Artery Stenosis Ultrasound Treatment
When carotid artery stenosis is detected, the most widely performed diagnostic test is called the Carotid Artery Doppler Ultrasound. This is an advanced imaging test that uses high frequency sound waves to not only determine the condition of the arteries, it also gives a clear pictorial view of blood flowing in them.
With these images, radiologists and doctors are able to tell whether the carotid arteries are blocked, partially clogged or in perfect condition. In patients with a high risk of stroke, carotid artery stenosis ultrasound focuses on the condition of the internal carotid arteries and can be performed every few months because of its non-invasive nature.
According to carotid artery stenosis treatment guidelines, those at a risk of stroke have to bring substantial changes to their lifestyles. From eating healthy, watching their weight, exercising regularly to avoiding exposure to substances that can irritate blood flow- these measures are a must even if the accumulation of plaque is not at an alarming stage.
Carotid artery stenosis treatment guidelines can also direct patients towards serious surgical procedures if the plaque has grown to a dangerous size. In such cases, a patient has usually suffered multiple ischemic strokes.