Carotid artery disease occurs when the carotid arteries become narrowed or blocked.

Your 2 carotid arteries, one on each side of your neck, are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to your brain.

Carotid artery disease results from fatty deposits, called plaque, building up in the arteries and causing them to become narrow and blocked (a process called atherosclerosis). If a piece of this plaque breaks away, it can get stuck in the smaller arteries of your brain, causing a stroke.

Carotid artery disease is a type of peripheral vascular disease, which also includes peripheral artery disease, renal artery disease, mesenteric artery disease, aortic disease, venous problems, and some other conditions, such as vasculitis.

Carotid Artery Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors for blockage or narrowing of the arteries include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of stroke
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Cocaine use

Carotid Artery Disease Symptoms

You may feel no symptoms of carotid artery disease until you have a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), a key warning sign of a future stroke. A TIA has the same symptoms as a stroke but is temporary and doesn’t cause any lasting damage.

Carotid Artery Disease Diagnosis

At Wake Forest Baptist, we use several tools to diagnose carotid artery disease. Your doctor may recommend any of the following tests:

Carotid Artery Disease Treatment

We believe it is just as important to manage your disease as it is to treat it. For some patients, medical management may be an effective alternative to surgery.

If you have a mild or moderate blockage, or if you have already undergone surgery, we may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Hyperlipidemia management
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking or losing weight
  • Exercise
  • Regular follow-up care to monitor your condition

In more severe cases, we may recommend surgery. Surgical options include:

Only you and your doctor can decide which carotid artery disease treatment is right for you. All of our patients receive pre-operative counseling to help them understand the risks and benefits of procedures.

Heart and Vascular Center

Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center combines cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to patient- and family-centered care. At the Heart and Vascular Center, our philosophy is clear: patients come first. We offer the latest in technology, devices and medication combined with personalized care, to offer life-changing vascular and heart disease treatments.