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