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.
TCAR (Transcarotid Artery Revascularization) — TCAR is a less invasive and safer alternative to carotid endarterectomy that removes plaque buildup. It is unique in that it temporarily reverses the blood flow during the procedure so that any small fragments of plaque that may break off during the procedure are diverted away from the brain. A stent is then placed inside the artery to stabilize the plaque, minimizing the risk of a future stroke.