Subclavian Artery Blockage
Subclavian Artery Blockage; Your body needs oxygenated blood to function optimally. The arteries are blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood to different parts of the body.
Every person has two subclavian arteries. Each subclavian artery delivers blood to a different side of the body.
The subclavian arteries deliver blood to the chest, shoulders, arm, neck, and head.
Subclavian artery syndrome occurs when the heart is experiencing difficulty pumping oxygenated blood through the subclavian artery. This can result in some degree of retrograde blood flow within the subclavian artery and the other arteries that branch off from it.
People with this condition may experience symptoms such as reduced blood flow to the neck, head, or arm.
Some cases of subclavian artery syndrome involve retrograde blood flow in the vertebral artery. Having subclavian artery syndrome of the vertebral artery means that blood will be moving away from the neck and head to the heart.
Symptoms of subclavian artery syndrome
People with subclavian artery syndrome may not know because they often do not experience any symptoms. If they do experience symptoms, they will vary depending on the specific arteries it affects.
Subclavian artery syndrome of the vertebral artery may cause neurological symptoms, especially after certain head movements or upper body exercises.
The symptoms occur because the brain and spinal cord are no longer receiving enough amount of blood to function properly.
People with this condition may experience:
- Hearing loss
- Blurred vision
- Loss of muscle coordination
Arm pain or discomfort symptoms
Subclavian artery syndrome affects an artery that carries blood to an arm and can cause symptoms in the affected arm, particularly after an exercise.
The symptoms occur because the affected arm is not receiving enough amount of blood to function properly.
People with this condition may experience numbness, pain, abnormal tingling, or prickling sensations in their arms.
Cause of Subclavian artery syndrome
Subclavian artery syndrome occurs when the heart is experiencing difficulty pumping oxygenated blood through the subclavian artery.
Risk factors of Subclavian artery syndrome
There are certain risk factors for subclavian artery syndrome. The most common risk factor for subclavian artery syndrome is Atherosclerosis. This is a condition whereby a person’s subclavian artery becomes blocked or narrowed due to the buildup of plaques (fatty deposits).
When plagued build up in the subclavian artery, the artery becomes narrowed or blocked. This makes it very difficult for the heart to pump blood through the subclavian artery. This can increase the risk of subclavian artery syndrome.
Other risk factors include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- A family history of subclavian artery syndrome
Other rare risk factors for subclavian artery syndrome include:
- Large artery vasculitis (inflammation of the large arteries)
- Thoracic outlet syndrome (when the arteries or nerves between the collarbone and first rib become compressed)
- Narrowing of the arteries after surgery for a heart condition
- Certain congenital heart irregularities
Diagnosis of Subclavian artery syndrome
Diagnosis is often required because some patients may not experience any symptoms. Your doctor will know if indeed you have subclavian artery syndrome after diagnosis.
During diagnosis, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms if you’re experiencing symptoms. If these symptoms are symptoms of subclavian artery syndrome, your doctor will recommend further testing.
The first test is usually a duplex ultrasound to measure the blood flow in your body.
If a duplex ultrasound is unable to provide all the information that your doctor needs to confirm that it is indeed subclavian artery syndrome, your doctor may recommend a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).
A magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) uses a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to visualize blood flow in your body.
Treatment of subclavian artery syndrome
Most without symptoms or mild symptoms may not require treatment as their condition may improve without medication treatments.
People experiencing more severe symptoms will require treatment. The type of treatment that will be provided will depend on the cause of the condition.
Treatment options include:
Making lifestyle changes, particularly for people with atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular conditions can help improve their condition.
These lifestyle changes may include:
- Avoid smoking
- Eating healthy diets
- Regular exercises and physical activity
- Losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding stress
If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to address your condition, medications may be beneficial.
Medications are beneficial, particularly for people with atherosclerosis. Medications like statins can be used to help control blood cholesterol levels and prevent the formation of arterial plaques.
Medications may also be required to help control inflammation or blood pressure and also to prevent the formation of blood clots.
In very serious cases, surgery may be required to remove a blockage of the subclavian artery or address other underlying causes of narrowing within the subclavian artery.