Health Encyclopedia

Plaque (Artery)

Plaque (Artery)

Plaque is a buildup of cholesterol, white blood cells, calcium, and other substances in the walls of arteries. Over time, plaque narrows the artery, and the artery hardens (atherosclerosis).

Plaque sometimes reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, which can cause chest pain (angina). Plaque in the large artery in the neck (carotid artery stenosis) may block blood flow to the brain and is a common cause of transient ischemic attack (sometimes called "mini-stroke") and stroke.

Plaques are covered with a fibrous cap, which may rupture if some trigger causes a surge in blood pressure or causes the artery to constrict. A person may have a heart attack or stroke if a plaque breaks open, creating a blood clot that completely blocks blood flow through the artery.

Last Revised: January 3, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

USNWR 2013-2014Magnet Hospital RecognitionConsumer Choice2014 Best DoctorsJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.