Carotid Treatments

Depending on the severity of your carotid artery disease, the specialists at Northwestern Medicine may recommend a treatment plan that includes one or more of the following:

Lifestyle modifications

Modifying certain risk factors can prolong and improve the quality of your life. This may include taking steps to:

  • Quit smoking: All nicotine products—including electronic cigarettes—constrict the blood vessels, which decreases blood flow through the arteries.
  • Lower cholesterol: Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Eat plenty of vegetables, lean meats (avoid red meats), fruits and high-fiber grains. Avoid foods that are processed and high in saturated and trans-fats.
  • Lower blood sugar: High blood sugar (glucose) can cause damage and inflammation to the lining of your carotid arteries. You can control glucose levels through a low-sugar diet.
  • Exercise: Lack of exercise can cause weight gain and raise blood pressure and cholesterol. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lower blood pressure: High blood pressure causes wear and tear and inflammation in blood vessels increasing the risk for artery narrowing. Blood pressure should be below 140/90 for most people.

Medications

Medicines may be used to treat your carotid artery disease. These may include:

  • Antiplatelets: These medicines make platelets in the blood less able to stick together and cause clots.     
  • Cholesterol-lowering medicines: Statins are a group of cholesterol-lowering medicines. Studies have shown that certain statins can decrease the thickness of the carotid artery wall and increase the size of the opening of the artery.
  • Blood pressure-lowering medicines

Surgery

Surgical treatment for carotid artery disease may include:

  • Carotid endarterectomy (CEA): This surgery removes plaque and blood clots from your carotid arteries. Endarterectomy may help prevent a stroke in people who have symptoms and a narrowing of 70 percent or more.
  • Carotid artery angioplasty with stenting (CAS): This is an option if you are unable to have carotid endarterectomy. It uses a very small hollow tube, or catheter, that is threaded through a blood vessel in the groin to the carotid arteries. Once the catheter is in place, a balloon is inflated to open the artery and a stent is placed. A stent—a tiny mesh coil often made of a nickel titanium metal alloy—is then placed to prop open the carotid artery. The stent is permanent.

Locations Performing this Treatment