The carotid arteries provide the main blood supply to the brain. There carotid arteries are located on each side of your neck under the jawline.
Carotid artery disease is a condition in which these arteries become narrowed or blocked. When the arteries become narrowed, the condition is called carotid stenosis.
Carotid artery disease occurs when sticky, fatty substances called plaque build up in the inner lining of the arteries. See: Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
The plaque may slowly block or narrow the carotid artery or cause a clot (thrombus) to form. Clots can lead to stroke.
Risk factors for blockage or narrowing of the arteries include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Heavy alcohol use
- Kidney disease, especially when dialysis is needed
- Cocaine abuse
- Family history of stroke
- Increasing age
- Smoking is also a risk factor. Smoking increases the risk of most types of stroke. People who smoke one pack a day have over two times the risk of stroke compared to nonsmokers.
- Two uncommon conditions called Marfan syndrome and fibromuscular dysplasia (abnormal growth or development of the cells in the walls of carotid arteries) may also cause narrowing of the carotid arteries.
Treatment options include:
No treatment, other than checking your carotid artery with tests every year
Medicine and diet to lower your cholesterol and control your blood pressure
Blood-thinning medicines to lower your risk of stroke; some of these medicines are aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), and warfarin (Coumadin)
Surgery, called carotid endarterectomy, to remove the buildup in your carotid arteries may help prevent new strokes from occurring in persons with large blockages in their neck arteries. See: Carotid artery surgery.
Is carotid artery surgery dangerous?
Like any surgical procedure, carotid endarterectomy carries risks. But if your doctor has recommended the procedure, you probably have moderate to severe blockage of the carotid artery – 70 percent or more, which puts you at a much higher risk for a stroke or mini-stroke than a stroke complication from the procedure.
What percent of carotid artery blockage requires surgery?
The procedure is indicated in symptomatic patients with carotid-territory transient ischemic attacks or minor strokes who have carotid artery stenosis of 70 to 99 percent. With a low surgical risk, carotid endarterectomy provides modest benefit in symptomatic patients with carotid artery stenosis of 50 to 69 percent
What if my carotid artery is 100 blocked?
Surgery should also be done for those who have carotid artery blockages which cut off between 75-99 percent of blood flow. … If the blockage is complete (100 percent), however, surgery will not be performed because the risk of stroke and significant brain damage from the procedure is too great.
Can you live with a blocked artery?
Chronic total occlusions are arteries that are 100 percent blocked by plaque. These arteries are blocked for several months, if not years. … After seeing his doctor, Col. Whittenberg learned he had an almost completely blocked left main coronary artery.