What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease is a serious condition that occurs when the carotid arteries, the major blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain, become narrowed or blocked. This typically happens due to atherosclerosis, a process where fatty deposits, or plaques, build up in the arteries.

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What are the symptoms of carotid artery blockage?

Many people with carotid artery disease do not experience symptoms until the artery is severely narrowed or blocked. However, if the artery becomes blocked by a clot, symptoms may suddenly appear and could include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs, particularly on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • A sudden, severe headache

What are the risk factors for carotid artery disease?

  • Age: The risk increases with age, particularly after 60.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking or using other types of tobacco accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure, damaging the blood vessels.
  • High blood pressure: Over time, high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels leading to the brain.
  • Diabetes: High sugar levels can lead to damage in all the body's blood vessels, including the carotid arteries.
  • Obesity: Being overweight can contribute to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
  • Unhealthy diet: High levels of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries.
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What are the diagnostic methods for carotid artery disease?

Early diagnosis of carotid artery disease is often challenging because many people don't exhibit symptoms until they have a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). However, certain methods can help detect the disease at an early stage. Carotid artery disease is diagnosed through various methods:

Physical Exam

Doctors may listen for an abnormal rushing sound, called a bruit, in the neck.

Carotid Ultrasound

This test uses sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of the carotid arteries.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

A CT scan can provide clear images of the arteries and detect narrowing or blockage.

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to provide detailed images of the arteries.

The importance of early diagnosis in carotid artery disease

Early diagnosis of carotid artery disease is crucial as it can help prevent serious complications such as stroke. If left untreated, a partial blockage can cut off the blood supply to the brain, leading to a stroke, which can result in significant disability or even death.

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Is carotid artery disease curable?

While carotid artery disease is not curable, it is treatable. The goal of treatment is to prevent the disease from progressing and causing a stroke.

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Treatments for carotid artery disease

Treatment for carotid artery disease may include lifestyle changes, medication, and potentially surgical procedures:

Lifestyle Changes

These can include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.


Doctors may prescribe medications to lower cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and prevent blood clots.

Carotid Endarterectomy

In this surgical procedure, a surgeon removes plaque from the carotid artery.

Carotid Angioplasty and Stenting

In this less invasive procedure, a surgeon widens the narrowed carotid artery and inserts a small wire mesh coil (stent) to keep it open.

Transcarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR)

Transcarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) is a minimally invasive procedure performed to clear blockages and open narrowed carotid arteries. This treatment is administered either before or in place of angioplasty and stenting.

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Benefits of our vascular lab

At Surgical Associates, our advanced, onsite vascular lab revolutionizes carotid artery care. We utilize high-end diagnostic tools such as carotid ultrasound and Doppler exams, which are crucial in identifying blocked or narrowed arteries, a major stroke risk factor. These non-invasive tests help us create tailored treatment plans for each patient. Our lab is not just a diagnostic hub but also a treatment center for vascular diseases.

We employ modern technology and minimally invasive methods to treat carotid artery disease, ensuring a less stressful experience for patients. One of the key benefits of our lab is convenience. Patients can undergo pre-op, surgery, and recovery within the lab, reducing wait times and enabling quicker home return. With a patient-to-nurse ratio of one to one or even two to one, we ensure optimal personalized care and attention.

Why choose Surgical Associates?

Since 1985, Surgical Associates has been the premier surgical practice in North Central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As an AAAHC Accredited practice, we specialize in various surgical procedures, including thyroid, vascular, gastric, colorectal, trauma, and pancreatic/liver surgeries. Our team of ten specialty surgeons has collectively performed thousands of procedures, consistently delivering high patient satisfaction. We pride ourselves on our state-of-the-art Office-Based Lab (OBL), which enables us to provide minimally invasive procedures and faster recoveries.

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