The carotid arteries supply blood flow to the brain. Plaque buildup in these arteries can cause stroke. Plaque is caused by atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” For more on atherosclerosis risk factors, click here.
If you have risk factors for atherosclerosis, or if you have suffered a stroke or mini stroke, or if your doctor hears a bruit (high-pitched sound) on the side of your neck with a stethescope, he or she may order an ultrasound to evaluate your carotid arteries. The ultrasound will tell if you have a narrowing (stenosis) in the artery caused by atherosclerosis.
Stroke is the leading cause for disability in the United States. More than half of all strokes are caused by carotid disease. Typically, this occurs because pieces of the plaque or blood clot forming on the plaque surface break loose and travels downstream to block small arteries in the brain; we call these emboli. Symptoms of stroke or mini stroke include: weakness or numbness on one side of the body, garbled or nonsensical speech or the inability to speak, facial droop, sudden loss of vision in an eye, dizziness, and balance issues.
We recommend treating severe carotid stenosis to reduce risk of stroke. People who have suffered a stroke or mini stroke may also benefit from surgery in order to prevent future strokes. For more on surgery, click here.