Carotid & Vertebral Artery Disease

Narrowing of the Carotid Artery

If you have had a TIA (mini stroke) or stroke and you have a narrowing of greater than 50% in your carotid artery, you probably can significantly reduce you risk of stroke and death if you have the carotid narrowing fixed. If the narrowing is less than 50%, you will reduce you risk of stroke and death more by medical management alone, rather than surgery.

If the carotid artery branch that supplies the brain (internal carotid artery) is 100% blocked, then blood is no longer flowing in the artery. The artery will clot (be 100% blocked) all the way up into the skull. There is no surgery that can successfully re-open this artery once it is 100% blocked. The brain will get the blood supply from the other 3 arteries. You are at increased risk for having a stroke, and need to control your risk factors for peripheral arterial disease.

Narrowing in the Vertebral Arteries

Narrowing in the vertebral arteries can cause problems if the brainstem does not get enough blood flow. The two vertebral arteries join to form a single artery at the base of the brain. Usually, if one vertebral artery is not narrowed it will be sufficient to supply blood to the brainstem.

Consequently, problems with the vertebral artery that require repair are rare. Vascular surgery is the primary specialty that treats narrowing in the vertebral arteries. When the vertebral arteries are not able to supply enough blood to the brain, patients may notice vertigo (room spins), dizziness (there are many causes of dizziness, vertebral artery narrowing is an uncommon cause), and fainting. This constellation of symptoms is called vertebral insufficiency.


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For the best surgical care in Tucson, Southern Arizona and the Southwest, you can make an appointment by calling us at (520) 694-1001.