Plaque build-up in a carotid artery — the main blood vessels to the brain — can lead to stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. Severe blockage is called carotid artery stenosis. If blood flow is severely restricted, one many experience stroke-like symptoms, such as vision loss and difficulty speaking. However, many individuals with carotid stenosis may not experience any symptoms.
Depending on the degree of stenosis and the patient’s overall condition, carotid artery stenosis can usually be treated with surgery. A procedure called carotid endarterectomy is performed to remove plaque and has proven to benefit patients with arteries stenosed (narrowed) by 70 percent or more. For people with arteries narrowed less than 50 percent, antiplatelet agents or anticoagulants medication are usually prescribed to reduce the risk of ischemic stroke. In all instances, a better diet, more exercise, and refrain from tobacco use are recommended.
Carotid angioplasty — in which a balloon or stent is inserted to open the narrowed artery — may be another non-surgical treatment option.
For more information, visit www.americanheart.org.