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Diagnosis / Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

What is Intracranial Atherosclerosis?

Intracranial atherosclerosis is the build up of plaque in the arteries that supply the brain with blood, causing the narrowing and blockage of these vessels. It is part of the same systemic process that affects the heart or legs causing a heart attack or pain while walking. If a vessel becomes completely blocked or severely narrowed, blood flow to the brain can be compromised and a stroke can occur.

What are the Risk Factors for Intracranial Atherosclerosis?

The risk factors associated with intracranial atherosclerotic disease are the same for atherosclerotic disease elsewhere in the body. Certain risk factors can increase your risk of carotid artery disease. Some of these risk factors cannot be changed while others can be modified or treated.

Risk factors that can be modified or treated:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Artery disease outside of the heart and the major vessels
  • Obesity
  • High blood cholesterol level
  • Lack of exercise

Non-modifiable risk factors:

  • Increasing age
  • Gender
  • Family history of stroke
  • Relative with atherosclerosis
  • Prior history of stroke and/or heart attack
  • Race

How is Intracranial Atherosclerosis Diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose intracranial atherosclerosis by looking at the blood flow in your brain. A variety of imaging tests can do this. With these tests, a doctor is able to see if the arteries are diseased, narrowed, enlarged, or blocked altogether.

What are the Symptoms of Intracranial Atherosclerosis?

Intracranial atherosclerosis often is only found when a major stroke occurs. Common signs and symptoms of a stroke or TIA may include sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg especially on one side
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Trouble swallowing

Strokes are medical emergencies that require immediate care. The faster the stroke is treated, the better the outlook for the person having the stroke. Strokes can be fatal, but they can also be treated and prevented, minimizing damage and the potential for further complications or disability.

IVC’s Treatment for Intracranial Atherosclerosis

Treatment options for atherosclerotic carotid artery disease include intracranial stent placement, medications, and surgery.

At IVC, we offer a minimally invasive treatment option, intracranial stent placement. Intracranial stent placement is an endovascular procedure done from inside the blood vessel to open the artery and improve the blood flow.

* This information about Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease was reviewed by Dr. Jason R. Bauer. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us using the form below.

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We are announcing that Interventional and Vascular Consultants will be closing as of March 10, 2023.

We would like to thank you for the trust you have given us over the years, participating in your healthcare needs has been a privilege.

To assist in a smooth transition to a new provider, you may access your records from your MyHealth account or request a copy of medical records by clicking the link below and completing the Release of Information form.

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Please know that we have greatly valued our relationship with you and wish you the best.


Jason Bauer, MD RVT
Michael Pfister, MD RVT

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