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What Is Carotid Artery Disease?

Carotid artery disease is a condition that causes a wax-like material to build up inside the carotid arteries inside your neck. Carotid artery disease is a serious health problem. It’s one of the leading causes of stroke in the United States.

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What Causes Blockage in a Carotid Artery?

Your carotid arteries play an important role in your body. These arteries carry oxygen-filled blood to your brain, face, neck, and scalp. Over time, the waxy material (also called plaque) building up inside your arteries hardens and narrows your arteries. If your arteries are narrow, it’s harder for oxygen-rich blood to flow to other organs and areas of your body.

The same process that causes plaque to build up in your carotid artery can also cause plaque to build up in your coronary artery. For this reason, many patients with carotid artery disease also have coronary artery disease.

Carotid Artery Disease & Stroke

Your internal carotid arteries carry blood to your brain. The most common cause of strokes is when a piece of plaque inside the arteries of your neck breaks loose. Your bloodstream then carries this piece of plaque to your brain. It's rare for strokes to happen because the carotid artery narrows.

For this reason, some people also refer to strokes as a “brain attack.”

The cells in your brain will start to die after just a few minutes without blood flow. Not getting enough blood to your brain can cause vision or speech problems, long-term problems with moving your body, or paralysis (when you can’t move). Strokes can also cause death.

Interdisciplinary Care

We bring together physicians from multiple specialties including emergency medicine and vascular surgery to provide comprehensive evaluation and management of patients with carotid artery diseases.

Our staff also works with clinical researchers to improve the chances that a patient can prevent, or recover, from a stroke. Our researchers are leaders in identifying causes of disease and developing new treatments, cures, and preventive tools.

Because of our collaboration and interdisciplinary cooperation, our researchers achieve remarkable results that translate to hope for patients and families.

Carotid Endarterectomy

If you have carotid artery disease (or carotid artery stenosis), your surgeon may suggest you have a carotid endarterectomy or carotid artery stenting. Both of these procedures open up your artery to relieve pressure. Your doctor will help you decide the best treatment for your needs.

At the Cardiovascular Center, our surgeons are specialty trained with advanced education in vascular surgery. Our surgeons are supported by a team that includes imaging specialists and other experts. Our team works with patients to evaluate and carry out the best treatment possible.

Stroke Treatment at University of Utah Health

From Our Specialists

What Are the Signs of Stroke?

Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of disability. Know these warning signs of stroke and teach them to others. Every second counts even if the symptoms go away.
Listen to Podcast (1 min)

How Much Do You Know About Stroke? (Quiz)

Do you know the symptoms of stroke? Could you prevent a stroke through lifestyle changes? Take this quiz and see how much you know.
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