Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid artery stenosis is a cerebrovascular condition marked by fatty buildup (cholesterol and other tissues called plaques) in the carotid arteries of the neck. As this buildup grows, the arteries become clogged and can’t get blood to the brain as well as they should. If left untreated, carotid artery stenosis can lead to a severe or complete blockage in these vessels, causing a stroke or transient ischemic attack.

At Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, our experienced neurologists and neurosurgeons tailor care to your needs. You have access to the latest therapies to accurately diagnose and effectively treat carotid artery stenosis.

Carotid artery stenosis symptoms

Narrowing (stenosis) of the carotid arteries (located in your neck) is frequently caused by carotid artery disease, a type of cerebrovascular disease. This condition often develops over many years, with few or no symptoms.

If people do show symptoms, it may cause a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), also called a mini stroke. In both a stroke and a TIA, a blood vessel blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching your brain. Unlike a major stroke, however, a TIA only blocks blood flow for a short time. Symptoms are similar to stroke symptoms but go away on their own.

Someone with a TIA may experience sudden but short-lived:

  • Numbness or weakness, on one or both sides of the body
  • Vision changes, such as blurriness or vision loss
  • Paralysis
  • Facial droop
  • Problems speaking

Diagnosing carotid artery stenosis

Because many patients feel no symptoms, physicians often first identify carotid artery stenosis through routine medical testing. Sometimes doctors may suspect this condition when they hear certain sounds while listening to your neck with a stethoscope.

If your physician suspects you may have carotid artery stenosis, you may need other tests to confirm a diagnosis:

  • Carotid artery ultrasound scans evaluate how well blood flows through the carotid arteries.
  • CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) provides detailed images of the affected arteries and potential blockages.
  • Catheter angiogram uses X-ray imaging and a special dye to take detailed images of inside the blood vessels.

Get expert carotid artery stenosis treatment at AHN

Carotid artery stenosis treatment depends on the severity of the blockage and the risk it poses to you. Learn more about AHN’s system of cerebrovascular and stroke care.

Changing your diet and exercise habits may be enough to stop the condition from worsening. Your physician may prescribe medications such as blood thinners, blood pressure-lowering medications, and cholesterol-lowering medications to further reduce your risk of having a stroke.

If the stenosis has advanced far enough, physicians may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the buildup from the affected artery. At AHN, our cerebrovascular team performs the latest techniques to treat carotid artery disease:

  • Carotid endarterectomy: A physician makes an incision into the affected artery and carefully removes the plaque and other affected areas, if necessary.
  • Carotid angioplasty with stenting: A physician uses a catheter (a tiny, hollow tube) and special tools, including a balloon that helps widen the artery. Then the physician places a wire stent in the artery to keep it from closing.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-6200.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.