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What is carotid artery stenosis?

Carotid artery stenosis is a narrowing of the artery located on either side of the neck. This artery carries blood to the head, face and brain.

The narrowing is usually the result atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque. Left untreated, it can completely block the artery and cause a stroke.

Carotid artery stenosis risk factors

Risk factors for carotid artery stenosis include:

  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Not all people with carotid artery stenosis will experience symptoms, but those who do may have:

  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting spells

Treatment

The treatment goal for carotid artery stenosis is to prevent a stroke.

If the blockage is mild, lifestyle changes to control plaque buildup may be recommended, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising more
  • Quitting smoking

If the blockage is severe or a stroke has already occurred, procedures may be necessary to remove the blockage.

Carotid angioplasty and stenting

A minimally invasive cerebral angiogram involves inserting a small catheter fitted with special tools into the femoral artery, a blood vessel located in the groin.

The catheter is then threaded up into the carotid artery. Balloons or a stent is then used to reopen the blocked vessel and restore proper blood flow.

Carotid endarterectomy

During a carotid endarterectomy, a vascular neurosurgeon accesses the artery through an opening in the neck to remove the plaque and restore blood flow to the brain.