The University of Chicago Medicine is a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, and our physicians have an established history of scientific breakthroughs related to stroke and carotid arterial disease. In fact, researchers at UChicago Medicine first demonstrated how atherosclerosis can result in carotid artery blockages.

Carotid arteries are located on either side of the neck and are responsible for supplying blood to the brain. Carotid artery disease, also known as cerebrovascular insufficiency, is characterized by the narrowing in one or both of the carotid arteries. Most frequently, this narrowing results from atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries due to plaque." Atherosclerosis can be associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Carotid arteries channel blood to the brain, and if they become too narrow, a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) may occur.

Symptoms & Causes of Carotid Artery Disease

Since each section of the brain controls different bodily functions, symptoms of carotid artery disease, or a stroke, can vary depending on the location of the narrowed artery. Common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Speech and comprehension difficulties
  • Weakness in or inability to move limbs
  • Vision impairment

Along with plaque build-up in the arteries, family history of the disease and genetics also are key risk factors. Additional health concerns and behaviors — such as alcohol and/or drug use, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure — can also increase the risk of disease.

Diagnosing Carotid Artery Disease

Our vascular surgeons work together with a multidisciplinary team that includes neurologists and interventionalists to provide optimal care to patients with carotid artery disease.

Getting an accurate, early diagnosis offers patients the best chance for a successful outcome. We offer free screenings for those at risk for carotid artery disease so we can diagnose disease early and give our patient the best chance for long-term success.

Carotid Artery Disease Treatments

Treatment plans — including medical, interventional and surgical options — are personalized for each patient. The team may recommend medical treatment and close follow-up for patients with mild carotid artery disease. For more severe disease, our team performs innovative surgical and nonsurgical procedures to reduce the risk of stroke.

Carotid Endarterectomy

Carotid endarterectomy, also known as carotid artery stenting, is the surgical removal of plaque that has built up inside the carotid artery. With carotid endarterectomy, a small incision is neck right at the source of the blockage, allowing your vascular surgery to remove plague and add a stent around the remaining plague to improve blood flow through the carotid artery.

Transcarotid Artery Revascularization

UChicago Medicine is only one of a few hospitals offering transcarotid artery recascularization (TCAR), an innovated treatment for patients suffering from carotid artery disease. TCAR provides a minimally invasive alternative to open surgery for patients with severe carotid artery disease. During the procedure, your vascular surgeon uses a specialized device to create a small incision in the neck near the carotid artery and place a stent around the blockage. This new technique redirects blood flow away from the carotid artery so that damaging particles, such as plague, cannot reach the brain during the procedure, ultimately avoiding the risk of stroke, clots and other potentially fatal conditions.

Neurovascular Surgery

The neurovascular surgery team offers options of extracranial to intracranial bypass, carotid microsurgery and the repair of intracranial aneurysms and other vascular anomalies. 

Understanding Carotid Artery Disease

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