Carotid Artery Disease

The carotid arteries are located along both sides of the neck and are the primary source of blood to the brain. A blockage in one or both can lead to a stroke. Every 45 seconds someone in the US has a stroke.

Risks

What puts you at risk to have a stroke?

  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol level
  • Family history of stroke
  • Personal history of stroke
  • Personal history of heart or leg bypass
  • Age

Signs and Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

(If you experience any of these symptoms dial 911 immediately.)

  • Sudden onset of numbness, weakness,paralysis, and/or loss of coordination on one side of the body
  • Drooping of one side of the mouth or face
  • Sudden onset of temporary loss of vision in one eye. This is described sometimes as a curtain shade being drawn down over one of the eyes
  • Inability to speak and/or understand spoken or written words or thick and garbled speech
  • Brief period of time that cannot be recalled
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Carotid artery bruit (noise heard over the carotid artery your doctor can hear with a stethoscope)

Diagnosis

How is carotid artery blockage diagnosed?

  • History and physical exam
  • Carotid duplex ultrasound
  • Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
  • Arteriogram/Angiogram

Treatment

How is carotid artery blockage treated?

Treatment depends on severity of blockage, symptoms, and overall health of person but may include:

  • Risk factor reduction
  • Medication
  • Surgery to remove the blockage
  • Stent placement for patients at increased risk of complications during surgery