Carotid Artery Stenosis, also called carotid artery disease refers to the narrowing of the carotid arteries. This is usually caused by the gradual buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol deposits, called plaque. When the carotid arteries are obstructed, you are at an increased risk for a stroke.

The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the large, front part of the brain. Thinking, speech, personality, sensory and motor functions reside here. You can feel your pulse in the carotid arteries on each side of your neck, right below the angle of the jaw line.

Symptoms of Carotid Artery Stenosis

You may not have any symptoms of carotid artery disease. Plaque builds up in the carotid arteries over time with no warning signs until you have a stroke. Signs of a stroke include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Blurred vision or temporary blindness in one eye
  • Dizziness and/or confusion
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of body
  • Severe sudden headache
  • Loss of control of movement on one side of body
  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sudden difficulty in walking, loss of balance, lack of coordination.

Treatment For Carotid Artery Stensosis

To effectively treat carotid artery disease, your doctor may recommend any, or all, of the following:

  • Following recommended lifestyle habits
  • Quit Smoking
  • Control High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and Cholesterol
  • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
  • Limit alcohol intake.

Medical Therapy

Taking medications as prescribed, for a blockage of less than 50% of the artery, your doctor may prescribe anti-clotting medications or blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Carotid Endarterectomy

This open procedure is commonly performed by a neurosurgeon or a vascular surgeon. While you’re under general anesthesia, an incision is made in the neck at the location of the blockage. The surgeon isolates the artery and surgically removes the plaque and diseased portions of the artery. Then, the artery is sewn back together to allow improved blood flow to the brain.

Carotid Angioplasty/Stenting

An endovascular neurosurgeon or interventional neurologist uses diagnostic imaging to insert a special catheter through one of the main arteries in the groin, through your aorta (the major blood vessel of your heart) to the blockage in the carotid artery. The doctor then attempts to clear the blockage and open the artery up. This is an alternative to open surgery for patients who are elderly
or who have other health issues like heart or lung disease, carotid disease on both sides, prior radiation therapy to the neck or prior carotid surgery.

Carotid endarterectomy or a carotid angioplasty/stenting procedure may improve blood flow with symptoms and the obstruction is more than 50% blocked, or if you are not having symptoms but your blockage is more than 70%.




This page is intended to be educational, but does not take the place of your physician or surgeon’s advice for your specific procedure or treatment. You should always consult with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Call Michigan Head & Spine Institute at 248-784-3667.


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