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Diagnosis / Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid arteries supply blood to the large, front part of the brain, where thinking, speech, personality and sensory and motor functions reside. There are two carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain; they can be felt on either side of the lower neck, below the angle of the jaw.

What is Carotid Artery Disease/Stenosis?

Carotid artery disease, also called carotid artery stenosis, is the narrowing of the carotid arteries, usually caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of cholesterol, fat and other substances traveling through the bloodstream, such as inflammatory cells, cellular waste products, proteins and calcium. These substances stick to the blood vessel walls over time as people age, and combine to form plaque.

The buildup of plaque in your carotid arteries can lead to a narrowing or a blockage, which can put you at risk for stoke.

Risk Factors for Carotid Artery Disease/Stenosis

There are several risk factors which have been associated with the development of atherosclerosis, including:

  • Family history
  • Age
  • High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL, bad cholesterol) and triglycerides in the blood.
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

In most cases, the carotid arteries become diseased a few years later than the coronary arteries. People who have coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis elsewhere have a higher risk of developing carotid artery disease.

How is Carotid Artery Stenosis Diagnosed and Evaluated?

Imaging tests are usually performed to diagnose, localize and measure stenosis, including:

  • Carotid ultrasound – uses sound waves to create real-time pictures of the arteries and locate blockages. A Doppler is a special ultrasound technique that can detect areas of restricted blood flow in the artery.
  • Computed tomography angiography (CTA) – CTA uses a CT scanner to produce detailed views of the arteries anywhere in the body (specially the neck in this case).
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) – provides similar information to that of a CTA without using ionizing radiation.
  • Cerebral angiography – minimally invasive test in which a catheter is guided through an artery to the area of interest. Contrast material, dye, is injected through a tube and x-rays are taken to identify a blockage.

IVC’s Treatment for Carotid Artery Disease / Stenosis

In severe cases of stenosis a carotid endarterectomy is required; this is where a surgeon makes an incision to remove plaque and any diseased portion of the artery.

At IVC, we offer a minimally invasive treatment option. Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting are less invasive than surgery and performed under image guidance. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through an incision in the groin to the site of the blockage, where a balloon is inflated to open the artery. A stent may then be placed in the artery to expand it and hold it open.

If you have been diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis and want to learn more about your options for treatment call IVC today at 503-612-0498. We will be happy to schedule you an appointment for consultation.

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