Carotid artery stenosis is when the carotid arteries narrow. The carotid arteries are blood vessels on each side of the neck. They supply blood from the heart to the brain.
Carotid artery stenosis is caused by the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This build-up is called atherosclerosis. Plaque is made of cholesterol, fat, and other substances.
Less common causes are problems in the carotid artery, such as:
Carotid artery stenosis is more common in men and people over 60 years old. Other things that raise the risk are:
There are usually no symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may be those of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke). Symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests will diagnose blood vessel problems. They may include:
The goal of treatment is to improve blood flow to the brain and prevent a stroke. Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. It also depends on if there are symptoms.
Treatment options may be:
For severe plaque build-up, surgery may be needed, such as:
There are no guidelines to prevent carotid artery stenosis. However, certain risks may be lowered by:
American Heart Association
National Stroke Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Baiu I, Stern JR. Carotid artery endarterectomy. JAMA. 2020;324(1):110.
Carotid artery stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/carotid-artery-stenosis. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Carotid artery stenosis. RadiologyInfo website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/carotidstenosis. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Carotid stenosis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed August 31, 2021
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA Last Updated: 8/31/2021