Carotid Artery Disease FAQs

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

What is Carotid Artery Disease (CAD)?

The carotid arteries are located on both sides of the neck and carry the blood supply to the brain. CAD is when one or both carotid arteries become blocked or significantly narrowed (stenosis).

Is CAD serious?

Yes. When blood supply is reduced, it deprives the brain of oxygen and can cause a stroke, mini-stroke or other symptoms.

What causes CAD?

The cause is vascular disease or atherosclerosis, buildup of fatty deposits in the artery narrowing and restricting blood flow. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery. It is the same disease that creates blockages in the coronary arteries which cause a heart attack.

What are the risk factors for CAD?

  • Family history and genetics
  • Coronary heart disease
  • History of heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Being female

Is it possible to have a stroke with no symptoms?

Yes. Often there may be no symptoms, at least until the artery is severely blocked compromising blood flow. Symptomatic disease results in a TIA or stroke.

What are the symptoms of CAD?

  • Bruit is a sound made when blood flow in the artery is restricted. It is detectable with a stethoscope. But not all people with carotid artery disease have bruits
  • TIA-Transient Ischemic Attack or Mini Stroke
  • Stroke

What is a TIA?

This may be the first sign of carotid artery disease. It is also a warning that a stoke is imminent but may occur months after a mini-stroke. But a TIA rarely causes permanent brain damage. A mini-stroke is an emergency. Call 911 and get to a hospital for treatment as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of a TIA?

  • A sudden, severe headache, confusion or fainting
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision loss or blurred vision
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the limbs on one side of the body that clumsiness
  • Loss of sensation in the face
  • Inability to speak or slurred speech

What are the symptoms of a Stroke?

Stroke is a symptom of carotid artery disease. Symptoms are the same as for a TIA, but continues long enough to cause permanent brain damage. The location in the brain where the blood loss was focused will determine the physical or mental disability that results, and the size of the area affected will determine recovery prospects.

How is CAD diagnosed?

  • Listening for Bruits
  • A carotid artery ultrasound scan to assess blood flow
  • And other testing

I have been diagnosed with CAD, will I have to have more ultrasound testing?

Yes, you will need regular carotid artery ultrasound testing to assure the artery stays open.

If I have a carotid artery scan and I abnormal results, will I need surgery?

Not necessarily. It will depend on a variety of facts.

What is the treatment for CAD?

Treatment is dependent on the facts of each person’s individual case.

Medical treatments and efforts to modify risk factors are important. Lifestyle changes like stopping smoking, addressing high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, improving diet, lowering blood pressure and increasing exercise. Medications to treat these conditions may be recommended.

If I have surgery and the blockage is removed, am I still at risk for stroke?

CAD is associated with about one third of all strokes. Even if the blockage is removed, there is still the risk of future strokes due to other conditions.

When is surgical treatment recommended?

  • When the artery is more than 70% occluded, surgery is usually recommended
  • When there are symptoms (including a TIA or minor stroke), surgery will be recommended to reduce the risk of a major stroke and permanent disability

Is Carotid artery surgery safe?

Yes, and usually requires an overnight in the hospital.

What are the types of Carotid artery surgery?

  • Carotid endarterectomy or CEA. This procedure is used to correct the narrowing of the artery, by removing the built up fatty deposits or plaques. This procedure is used when the blockage is moderate, between 50-79% and there are symptoms. Or when the blockage is severe though there are no symptoms. This is a very safe and effective procedure
  • Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting or CAS. This is a minimally invasive procedure where a small catheter is inserted in a blood vessel in the groin and threaded to the carotid arteries

When you have questions about the health of your carotid arteries, contact South Valley Vascular. Carotid artery surgery at South Valley Vascular has received a 5-star rating from Healthgrades, the nation’s leading independent health care ratings organization. You can come see us at one of our locations in Visalia, Poterville, Hanford, Tulare, and Fresno. We deliver. Don’t delay and call us today at (559) 625-4118!