Carotid Artery Disease and Stroke

Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque deposits build up in the carotid arteries, blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood to the brain and the heart. Carotid artery disease develops slowly; the first sign of the condition may be a stroke or transient ischemic attack.


  • Carotid stenosis is the narrowing of either of the two carotid arteries, major blood vessels that carry blood to the brain and heart.
  • Carotid dissection is a tear (or dissection) in either of the two carotid arteries. This tear in the inner layer of the artery wall lets blood get in between the layers of the artery wall and separates them, causing secondary injury and narrowing of the carotid artery.


  • Headache and neck pain are sometimes present.
  • A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also referred to as a minor stroke or mini stroke, can represent an important warning sign of a potential future more serious stroke. A TIA occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery for a short period of time. The symptoms of a TIA are like a stroke but are temporary, usually lasting only a few minutes to hours.
  • An ischemic stroke is a much more serious version of a TIA, occurring when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or plaque. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke, occurring in approximately 87% of cases. Unlike a TIA, the blockage causing an ischemic stroke won’t go away on its own without urgent treatment.