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About Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of plaque inside arteries, which may elevate the risk of stroke. At Columbia Neurosurgery, we specialize in diagnosing and treating atherosclerosis relevant to the brain. Common treatment options include angioplasty, arterial stenting and carotid endarterectomy.

Two types of atherosclerosis have the potential to impact brain function:

  • Atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries, known as carotid artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis of the cerebral arteries, known as intracranial atherosclerosis

Plaque buildup causes artery walls to become thick and stiff. (Atherosclerosis is sometimes called “hardening of the arteries.”) Eventually, the thickened vascular walls may interfere with blood flow, and if the blockage prevents blood from reaching the brain, the result is ischemic stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency.

Plaques may also cause ischemic stroke if they rupture. When a plaque ruptures, a blood clot forms. The clot may block the flow of blood there, or a piece may break off, travel through the artery and block blood flow elsewhere.

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