The carotid arteries supply blood to the front of the brain. The commonest cause of carotid artery disease is atherosclerosis. When the arteries to the brain become narrowed due to atherosclerosis it can result in small blood clots passing up to the brain. When this occurs it might not cause any symptoms but in some patients it can cause temporary blindness in one eye (amurosis fujax), a transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini stroke) or a stroke. About one in ten strokes are due to carotid artery disease. If we can fix the diseased artery, it might reduce the risk of the patient suffering a disabling stroke. There are two main ways of fixing the carotid artery. The traditional method, call a carotid endarterectomy, involves a cut on the neck, removal of the diseased lining of the artery and then repairing the artery with a plastic patch. More recently, some patients have been treated by dilating the carotid artery using a small balloon and placing a stent in the artery (carotid angioplasty and stent). However, both of these procedures are risky. The most important risk is that the procedure itself can cause a stroke, which is a shame as this is what we are trying to prevent. In order to pick patients who are most likely to benefit from surgery, we take into account how narrowed the artery is when assessed by an ultrasound scan, and whether the diseased artery has caused any symptoms or not.
If you have suffered:
amurosis fujax – temporary blindness in one eye
a transient ischaemic attack or mini stroke – weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or difficulty in talking which lasted less then 24 hours, or
a stroke – weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or difficulty in talking which lasted more than 24 hours
you must see your GP straight away. If you cannot see your GP, you must go to your nearest emergency department. They will arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan of your neck. If the neck artery is severely diseased you should be referred to Stuart Walker immediately as we try to operate on these patients within 48 hours of their symptoms, or by no later than 2 weeks following their symptoms.
For patients who would like more information, see the Patient leaflet for CAD to the left. For medical students and doctors who would like more information, see the CAD PDF file.