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Carotid artery disease

When the carotid arteries — located on either side of your neck — build up with plaque, they pose stroke risk. If the particles of plaque should break free from the artery, they could move north to your brain and cause a stroke.

Diagnostics used to detect carotid artery disease include:

Ultrasound — Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the heart and blood vessels.

Computerized tomography angiography (CTA) — A contrasting dye is injected into your arteries to clearly “mark” the area of interest as images are taken of your neck and brain.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — A combination of a magnetic field and radio waves creates three-dimensional images of your heart and other parts of your body to determine if disease or physical anomalies are present.

Cerebral angiogram — A contrasting dye is injected with a catheter that is guided through your carotid arteries after which detailed X-rays are taken.

Procedures used to treat carotid artery disease include:

Carotid endarterectomy — During this procedure, an incision is made in the neck and the plaque is removed from the artery to restore a healthy blood flow and eliminate the risk.

Carotid angioplasty and stenting — Similar to the procedure that is performed for heart blockages, a balloon is delivered through a narrow tube (catheter) to the carotid artery. The balloon is then inflated to remove the blockage. A narrow mesh tube, called a stent, is inserted to keep the narrowing from recurring.