Carotid Artery Disease

Where are my carotid arteries?

On each side of your neck, you have two common carotid arteries. Each of these divide into internal and external arteries.

What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease is when a wax-like substance called plaque builds up inside the carotid arteries. Over time the plaque narrows and hardens the arteries, limiting the amount of oxygen-rich blood that is passed around your body. For more detailed information on carotid artery disease, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website by clicking here.

If left untreated, carotid artery disease becomes a major cause of stroke. A stroke occurs when a piece of plaque or a blood clot breaks away from the artery, travels through the blood stream and gets stuck in one of the brain’s smaller arteries.

Carotid artery disease may remain asymptomatic until the arteries become severely narrowed or blocked.

What causes carotid artery disease?

A number of causes and risk factors that contribute to carotid artery disease including:

  • Smoking
  • High levels of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of sugar in the blood
  • Family history
  • Older age

How do you diagnose carotid artery disease?

There are a number of ways carotid artery disease can be diagnosed. Doctor Cohen will advise you on the best approach specific to your situation, however they may include:

  • Clinical history
  • Physical exam
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • CT Angiography.

How is it treated?

Treatment options will be highly dependent on your personal situation and a plan specific to your needs will be discussed when you meet with Doctor Cohen. Other than changes to your lifestyle and taking the appropriate medication, the below surgical procedures may be suggested.

Carotid Endarterectomy

This would be the most common way to treat carotid disease. It usually reserved for those patients who are having symptoms and have a blockage over 50% or asymptomatic blockages over 80%. Doctor Cohen will make an incision in your neck to reach the blocked artery. He will then remove the blocked part of the artery and remove the inner lining that is blocking the blood flow and sew in a patch on the outside wall to decrease the chance of future narrowing.

Carotid Artery Angioplasty and Stenting

This procedure will require a small catheter into the groin and advance to the neck. An umbrella is deployed before the stent to capture any debris. A balloon will be deployed which will inflate to reopen the artery and flatten the blockage into the artery wall. The artery will then be stented to ensure it remains open.

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