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About Carotid Artery Disease

Carotid artery disease occurs when deposits build up inside a carotid artery. The primary surgical treatments for carotid artery disease are carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and carotid artery angioplasty with stenting (CAS).

Deposits inside artery walls are known as plaques. Plaques are comprised of fats, cholesterols, proteins and other materials that cause artery walls to become thick and stiff. For this reason plaque buildup is sometimes called “hardening of the arteries,” or atherosclerosis (sclerosis = hardening).

What is carotid artery stenosis?
Carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of the carotid arteries, occurs when plaques interfere with the flow of blood. Stenosis of the carotid arteries may prevent sufficient blood from reaching the brain. When this occurs, the result can be a stroke, a medical emergency that can lead to permanent disability or death.

Carotid artery disease may compromise the brain’s blood supply via one of three mechanisms:

  • Carotid artery stenosis. Plaques may grow large enough simply to block the flow of blood through the artery.
  • Plaques can rupture and leak their contents. Blood clots form to stop the leak, and these clots may obstruct blood flow through the vessel.
  • Part of a clot from a plaque’s rupture may detach from the rest of the clot. This detached section may travel through the bloodstream until it lodges in a narrow vessel in the brain, blocking that vessel.

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