Carotid Intima-Media Thickness Test (CIMT)

The identification of patients at risk for heart attack and stroke is of great concern for a physician and for patients themselves. There are currently several imaging tests that can supplement our ability to detect the presence of atherosclerotic plaque in the carotid and coronary arteries.  While some tests involve a small dose of radiation, the Carotid Intima Media Thickness test (CIMT) uses sound waves (ultra sound – no radiation) and is uniquely suited to detect not just calcific (hard) plaques but more subtle soft plaques in the carotid arteries (the arteries of the neck).

Studies have shown that the presence of carotid plaque correlates very well with coronary plaque (plaque in the heart arteries). The easy access to the carotid arteries in the neck therefore makes this test a very useful tool to indirectly assess your heart arteries.

Several large studies have evaluated this test in patients of all ages, and have shown that increased IMT and plaque in the carotid arteries can predict risk for stroke and heart attack. CIMT allows more accurate risk stratification in asymptomatic patients than do traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is also a very useful test to track a patient’s progress on therapy.

What is a carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) test?

A CIMT scan is a non-invasive technique using ultrasound (sound waves) to detect and quantify vascular disease and cardiovascular risk before any symptoms occur. The CIMT measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid arteries (the intima and media) and the analysis tells your physician about your health and your risk for cardiovascular disease. Early detection of increased thickness may indicate the need for a more aggressive approach to managing the risk factors causally associated with heart disease and stroke. In addition, the scan is able to detect presence of plaques in the arteries – a manifestation of more significant vascular disease.

The scan takes 10 minutes and is performed by a sonographer. There is no preparation needed for the test and there is no radiation and no injections involved in the scan. Also, you do not need to disrobe for the test.

How is the scan performed?

The ultrasound of the carotid arteries on both sides of your neck is performed by a trained sonographer in our ultrasound laboratory.  A gel-like substance will be applied to your neck after which an ultrasound probe will be gently placed to obtain images that will be recorded and stored for review. The ultrasound device utilizes sophisticated digital imaging and automatic edge detection software to accurately and reproducibly measure the thickness of the inner two layers of the artery and plaque, if present.

Who interprets the test?

A cardiologist with expertise in CIMT will interpret and report the result of the test. Results will be reported electronically to your referring physician.

What is the cost? 

A CIMT costs $250.

Find more information on our frequently asked questions.

Make an appointment

Call 310-423-8000 to schedule an appointment. You will need to provide the phone number of a physician to whom the results will be sent.