Each artery plays a unique role in your body’s circulatory system: carrying blood away from your heart to your organs and tissues. Two of those arteries — the carotid arteries in your neck — are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to your brain and, if obstructed, can lead to serious health complications, including an increased stroke risk.
“Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque — a substance made of fat, cholesterol and calcium — builds up along the artery walls,” says James B. Butler, M.D., a specialist in diagnostic radiology on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center and associated with Southern Radiology Associates. “This can lead to the arteries thickening, which can narrow the blood vessel and limit blood flow, therefore increasing an individual’s risk for stroke if left untreated.”
A stroke is a serious medical condition requiring immediate treatment that occurs when blood supply to the brain is reduced, resulting in brain cells dying at a rapid pace. A stroke can be caused by a blood vessel in the brain rupturing, but it can also be triggered when blood flow to the brain is obstructed, such as via a blocked path in the carotid artery due to plaque buildup.
There are several risk factors that can lead to an increased likelihood of developing carotid artery disease, including:
- High blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
- Tobacco use
- Coronary artery disease
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) and/or stroke
“If these risk factors apply to you, consider talking with your primary care doctor about whether you could benefit from a carotid artery screening,” Dr. Butler says. “The screening is a safe, quick and painless process that uses ultrasound technology to evaluate the carotid arteries in the neck to assess plaque buildup. The goal is to detect the disease in its early — and most treatable — stages. If carotid artery disease is detected, you may then be referred to a vascular surgeon.”
Carotid artery screenings are designed for individuals who have not previously been diagnosed with vascular disease. They are performed at Maury Regional Health’s imaging facilities in Columbia, Hohenwald, Lewisburg, Spring Hill and Waynesboro. The cost is $45 per study and a doctor’s order is not required.
To learn more about the common causes and symptoms of a stroke or about the benefits of vascular screenings, visit MauryRegional.com. If you or a loved one experience signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Stroke is a serious medical emergency and a quick response can make all the difference.
James B. Butler, M.D.,
is a board-certified specialist in diagnostic radiology on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tennessee. He is associated with Southern Radiology Associates.