Technology. Expertise. Empathy.

Carotid Artery Disease and Stroke Prevention

The carotid arteries are the two large blood vessels in your neck that supply the brain with blood. Although it often does not cause symptoms, carotid artery disease, also called carotid artery stenosis, puts you at much higher risk for stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This can happen if a blood clot formed elsewhere in the body sticks to the plaque build up in the wall of the carotid artery.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the following factors put you at higher risk for carotid artery disease:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Older age
  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Family history of atherosclerosis

Additionally, people who have coronary artery disease have an increased risk of developing carotid artery disease.

Transient Ischemic Attack: Stroke Warning

Some people with carotid artery disease may experience an episode called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes referred to as a "mini stroke." According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (National Institutes of Health), a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a transient stroke that lasts only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to stroke symptoms, but do not last as long. Most TIA symptoms disappear within an hour, although they may last for up to 24 hours. Symptoms can include:

  • numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.

Any of these symptoms-for any length of time-should be considered a medical emergency. Call 911 and seek immediate help.

Your Treatment for Carotid Artery Disease at Baptist Cardiovascular Center

At Baptist, interventional cardiologists and vascular surgeons, treat patients with carotid artery disease. These physicians use a number of state-of-the art diagnostic tests to determine the severity of your disease and the recommended treatment options.

Get to know physicians on staff at Baptist. Watch their video profiles:

Tests You May Need

To fine tune your diagnosis, your physician may perform any number of tests, including the following.

Carotid Ultrasound

Carotid ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the insides of the two carotid arteries. You have one carotid artery on each side of your neck. Carotid ultrasound shows whether plaque has narrowed your carotid arteries. Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Carotid Angiography

Carotid angiography is a special type of x ray. During the test, a small tube called a catheter is put into an artery, usually in the groin (upper thigh). The tube is then threaded up into the carotid artery. Contrast dye is then injected into the carotid arteries. The dye helps show the location and severity of blockages in the arteries. Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Recommended Treatment

Depending on what your physician discovers during any diagnostic tests you may receive, your treatment will range from a procedure in our Cath Lab to surgery.

Physicians at Baptist's Cardiovascular Center may use our brand new Hybrid OR Suite for these procedures. This surgical suite has the most advanced technology of its kind in the state of Mississippi. The suite allows physicians to perform both catheter-based and surgical techniques during the same procedure. This is designed to provide better outcomes for patients and reduce the number of hospital admissions necessary to achieve treatment goals.

Baptist offers all the following treatment options:

Medical Management

There are a number of drugs, such as aspirin and Plavix (anticoagulants), used to treat patients with carotid artery disease. These medications keep cells from sticking together that may form clots within the carotid artery. They are used to reduce the risk of stroke or other complications that may arise from these conditions if left untreated.

Carotid Angioplasty and Stenting

In some cases, patients may be able to undergo a procedure, called carotid angioplasty and stenting, in Baptist's Cath Lab. During angioplasty, your doctor will make a small opening in a blood vessel in your groin (upper thigh), arm, or neck. Through this opening, your doctor will thread a thin, flexible tube called a catheter with a deflated balloon on its end. Once the tube is in the area of the artery that needs treatment, your physician will expand the balloon inside the artery to compress plaque and widen the passage. Angioplasty improves blood flow through the carotid artery. A stent, which is a small mesh tube, may be placed around the deflated balloon. The fully extended balloon also expands the surrounding stent, pushing it into place in the artery. The balloon is deflated and taken out along with the catheter. The stent remains in your artery. (Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute)

Physicians who perform carotid angioplasty and stenting in the Cath Lab are:
W. Stewart Horsley, MD
Chris Waterer, MD

Carotid Endarterectomy

For some patients, surgery to remove plaque from the carotid artery is the recommended treatment. This procedure, called carotid endarterectomy, is typically done under general anesthesia. The procedure typically takes about one hour, with a hospital stay that generally lasts 24 hours. At Baptist, board certified vascular surgeons perform the operation.

Get help for carotid artery disease at Baptist

If you would like to become a patient at Baptist, the first step is seeing one of our physicians. You can request a referral by calling the Baptist Heart at 601-968-1966, or requesting an appointment online.

About Baptist Heart

Baptist has earned several prestigious certifications, accreditations and awards for our care of patients with cardiovascular conditions.
See our full list of certifications, accreditations and awards.

Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke

If you have a family history of heart disease and/or stroke, you may be interested in our low cost screening programs. These screenings are available year round and provide results you can have sent to your personal physician.

Trust your heart to Baptist Heart. Make an appointment today. Call 601-968-1966.