Carotid Artery Disease

Though carotid artery disease is a serious condition and is frequently chronic and lifelong, with the expert care at INTEGRIS Health and some lifestyle modifications, you should live a healthy, active life.

Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid artery disease (coronary artery disease) is a condition where fatty deposits of plaque clog the blood vessels that deliver blood to the brain and head. These blood vessels are the carotid arteries. Clogging these arteries can lead to stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the brain loses all or an amount of its blood supply. Carotid artery stenosis typically develops slowly. The first sign of the condition may be a strong or transient ischemic attack (TIA). These are a temporary shortage of blood flow to the brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Carotid Artery Stenosis

In the early stages of carotid artery disease, symptoms are often undetected. The condition’s symptoms may become more severe when the brain is deprived of blood causing a stroke or TIA. Symptoms of a stroke or TIA can include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, often on one side of the body
  • Trouble speaking and understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Diagnosing Carotid Artery Stenosis

To diagnose you, your doctor will first look at your medical history and perform a routine physical exam. Your doctor will listen for a swooshing sound near the carotid artery in the neck. A narrowed artery will cause this sound. The next test is your strength, memory and speech.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests may include:

  • Ultrasound: studies the blood flow and pressure in the carotid artery
  • CT or MRI: imagery showing if there’s been a stroke or other issue
  • CT angiography or MR angiography: additional imagery and information about blood flow in the carotid arteries

Treatment for Carotid Artery Stenosis

The objective for treating carotid artery disease is to prevent a stroke from happening. Treatment will depend on how blocked the arteries are, whether the blockage is related to current symptoms and your medical history.

Some treatments for carotid artery disease may not require surgery. For mild to moderate carotid artery disease, your doctor may just recommend a change in lifestyle or a medication for controlling blood pressure or lower cholesterol.

For more severe cases, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to reduce the blockage.

These options include:

  • Carotid endarterectomy: the most common of treatments, the surgeon opens up the artery and removes the plaques.
  • Carotid angioplasty and stenting: using a catheter, the surgeon will send a tiny balloon to the area of the clogged artery and widen it by inflation. The surgeon will then insert a stent to keep the artery from narrowing again. 

INTEGRIS Health physicians, cardiologists and specialists have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating carotid artery disease, and the cutting-edge technologies and procedures brought to you by INTEGRIS Health Heart Hospital mean you can often get maximally successful results with the latest in minimally invasive robotic or laparoscopic surgeries and procedures.

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