Carotid artery disease involves the narrowing of the main blood vessels in your neck that supply your head with blood. This condition is sometimes referred to as carotid stenosis.
Carotid stenosis is typically caused by atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque, a sticky substance made of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, along the inside of arterial walls.
Having too much plaque in your carotid arteries can substantially increase your risk of having a stroke. That’s because carotid stenosis caused by plaque build-up doesn’t simply reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain; it can cause small clots to form, break off, and travel to your brain, resulting in a minor or major stroke.
The primary risk factors for developing carotid artery disease are the same as the risk factors for coronary heart disease. They include:
After finding out if you have any of the major risk factors for carotid artery disease, the team at NEOVA will perform a physical exam, followed by diagnostic testing.
A carotid ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive test that shows the structure of your carotid arteries, whether they’re affected by plaque buildup, and, if so, how narrow they’ve become.
A Duplex carotid ultrasound can be used to reveal how well blood flows through the arteries in your neck.
The main goal in treating carotid artery disease is to prevent the kind of blockage that can lead to a stroke. If caught in time, surgery for a stroke drains the blood around the brain and stops the aneurysm from bleeding. When carotid stenosis is relatively mild, treatment may entail lifestyle modifications to slow the progression, as well as medication to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, or prevent blood clots.
For more severe blockages, treatment typically involves surgically removing the blockage or opening up the artery with balloons and stents. These treatments include:
This surgery involves an incision along the front of your neck that allows your surgeon to access the affected artery, open it, remove the plaque, and then repair the artery.
For blockages that are too difficult to reach surgically (or for patients who can’t undergo surgery), carotid stenting can help keep the arteries open. The procedure, which is done under local anesthesia, involves using a catheter to thread a tiny balloon into the narrowed artery. After the balloon is inflated, it’s held open by a small wire mesh coil, or stent.
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