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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.
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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