Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT)

The carotid intima-media thickness test (CIMT) is a measure used to diagnose the extent of carotid atherosclerotic vascular disease. The test measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery – the intima and media – and alerts physicians to any thickening when patients are still asymptomatic. Early detection may indicate the need for a more aggressive approach to managing the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke.

Aging is a contributing factor to increased carotid intima-media thickness. Other risk factors include high lipoprotein levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Physicians use CIMT testing to determine the “age” of the carotid arteries. Knowing that patients may not be experiencing the symptoms of artherosclerosis, there still

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may be subtle changes in artery thickness. Armed with this information, physicians may develop an aggressive medical approach by prescribing medications such blood pressure and cholesterol

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lowering agents and aspirin, and patients may be encouraged make lifestyle and dietary improvements.

What to Expect During the CIMT

  • No preparation is required for the CIMT test. Patients may resume normal activities immediately following the test unless otherwise instructed.
  • A physician or a diagnostic medical sonographer will perform the test.
  • A thick gel, the same consistency as hairstyling gel, is applied to the skin of the neck. With the use of a transducer (a small microphone-like device), the gel helps the sound waves to get from the machine into the body.
  • Sound waves bounce off the carotid arteries. This creates “echoes” that are reflected back to the transducer, which converts them to electronic signals. A computer then processes the signals into pictures and shows them on a computer monitor.

The test generates a CIMT measurement and a report identifying the patient’s risk profile.