Carotid Stenosis: What you need to know

April 11, 2013 Dean Hamilton, ARNP

Carotid stenosis is a build of up plaque in the large arteries that supply the brain with blood. This buildup of plaque increases the risk of transient ischemic attack (TIA) and stroke. Risk factors for carotid artery stenosis include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and tobacco use. Symptoms of carotid artery stenosis include facial droop, weakness or numbness on one side of the face and body, slurred speech, garbled speech, gait instability, dizziness, and visual disturbances including blurred vision, loss of vision and double vision.

Carotid artery stenosis can be diagnosed with several diagnostic studies including carotid ultrasound, MR angiography (MRA), CT angiography (CTA), and cerebral angiogram.

Treatment options for carotid artery stenosis vary depending upon the severity of stenosis, history of TIA or stroke, and other medical conditions. The Cerebrovascular Center at Swedish offers surgical intervention for carotid stenosis.

The surgical treatment of carotid stenosis is carotid endarterectomy (CEA). A CEA involves making an incision in the neck and through the stenotic carotid artery allowing the surgeon to remove the plaque.

Here are some tips should you or a family member experience symptoms of TIA or stroke:

An easy way to remember what to look for is to think and act FAST.

  • F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S – Speech: Ask the person to say something. Is the speech slurred or garbled?
  • T – Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is critical!

(For more information about stroke signs and symptoms and treatment options, click here, or take this free, online risk assessment to find out if you are at increased risk for stroke.)

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