Carotid artery disease, also known as carotid artery stenosis or atherosclerosis, occurs when one or both carotid arteries become partially or completely blocked due to the build-up of cholesterol plaque. These blockages restrict blood flow to the brain and can increase the risk of blood clot formation, significantly raising the chances of a stroke.
Receiving a diagnosis of carotid artery disease can be unexpected and overwhelming, causing significant burden for patients. Dr McConnell’s and his team’s primary goal is to provide comprehensive support during this challenging time. Vein Doctors Sydney offers thorough diagnostic testing, high-quality clinical assessments, and the latest evidence-based treatments. They are dedicated to guiding you through every step of your journey.
Several factors contribute to the development of carotid artery disease. These risk factors can compound and exacerbate each other:
In the early stages of carotid artery disease, symptoms may not be apparent. The condition often remains undetected until it progresses to a severe stage, causing reduced blood flow to the brain or the formation of a clot on the plaque, leading to a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). The following symptoms may manifest:
To diagnose carotid artery disease, various tests may be employed, including:
The treatment approach for carotid artery stenosis is tailored based on symptoms, diagnosis, and whether a stroke has occurred. If carotid artery disease is diagnosed before a stroke, preventive lifestyle changes are recommended, including:
Carotid Endarterectomy: Carotid endarterectomy is the most common surgical procedure for severe carotid disease. It is favored by neurologists and patients alike. During the surgery, incisions are made in the front of the neck, and the carotid artery is carefully opened to remove the blockage.
Carotid Artery Stenting: Carotid artery stenting serves as an alternative to carotid endarterectomy in specific cases. It is considered when standard surgical techniques are not feasible due to plaque location or patient factors. Carotid artery stenting has shown a reduced risk of complications, particularly for patients with significant cardiac and respiratory conditions. Additionally, it offers the advantage of a faster recovery time.
Dr Ryan McConnell
BMBS, FRANZCR, CCINR
Dr. Ryan McConnell is an esteemed interventional neuroradiologist in Sydney. With a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from Flinders University, he completed specialized training in radiology at Royal North Shore Hospital. Dr. McConnell further pursued fellowships in interventional radiology and neurointervention, obtaining CCINR accreditation.
With a strong focus on endovascular procedures, Dr. McConnell specialises in treating cerebral aneurysms, embolising arteriovenous malformations and dural arteriovenous fistulas, performing carotid artery stenting, intracranial stenting, and addressing peripheral vascular malformations and varicose veins.
Dr. McConnell plays a crucial role in patient management, offering comprehensive pre-procedural consultations, attentive in-hospital clinical care, and dedicated short- and long-term clinical follow-up. His collaboration with clinical colleagues ensures patients receive optimal, personalized care tailored to their specific needs.
For expert guidance and treatment in carotid artery disease, consult with Dr. Ryan McConnell, a trusted interventional neuroradiologist at Vein Doctors Sydney.
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Our Open Hours:
8:30 am – 5 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
If you require more information on carotid artery disease, please read our most frequently asked questions:
While carotid artery disease can have a genetic component, it is not solely determined by heredity. Family history of cardiovascular diseases, including carotid artery disease, can increase an individual’s risk, but lifestyle factors and other environmental influences also play a significant role.
Although carotid artery disease is commonly associated with aging, it can affect younger individuals as well, particularly those with risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of the disease.
While a blocked carotid artery may not typically cause pain, it can lead to symptoms that can be distressing. These symptoms include transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), weakness or numbness on one side of the body, speech difficulties, vision loss, and severe headaches. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to get medical attention promptly.
The experience of a blocked carotid artery can vary among individuals. Some people may not feel any specific sensation, while others may experience symptoms such as sudden weakness or numbness, speech difficulties, vision loss, and severe headaches. If you suspect a blocked carotid artery, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Carotid artery disease can lead to several complications, the most severe of which is a stroke. If the blood flow to the brain is significantly blocked or a blood clot forms and travels to the brain, it can result in a stroke, causing lasting damage or even death.
Carotid artery disease can contribute to cognitive impairment and an increased risk of vascular dementia. When the blood flow to the brain is compromised due to narrowed or blocked carotid arteries, it can lead to a decrease in oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain, potentially causing memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive changes. It is crucial to manage carotid artery disease effectively to minimize the risk of cognitive impairment and seek appropriate medical care if cognitive symptoms are observed.
Yes, carotid artery disease can be detected even in the absence of symptoms. In fact, it is often asymptomatic in its early stages. Regular medical check-ups and screenings can help detect carotid artery disease before symptoms develop, allowing for early intervention and management. Diagnostic tests such as carotid ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomography angiography (CTA) can provide detailed images of the carotid arteries, allowing healthcare professionals to assess the extent of narrowing or blockage.
Carotid artery disease can contribute to vision problems in some cases. If the blood flow to the eyes is compromised due to the narrowing or blockage of the carotid arteries, it can lead to a condition known as retinal artery occlusion. This can cause sudden vision loss or blurred vision in one eye. If you experience any changes in vision, it is important to seek medical attention promptly to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
While there are no specific dietary restrictions for individuals with carotid artery disease, adopting a heart-healthy diet is highly recommended. This includes consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats while limiting saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. A diet rich in antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids can support overall cardiovascular health. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized dietary guidance based on individual health needs and goals.
Carotid artery disease itself does not directly cause high blood pressure (hypertension). However, the narrowing or blockage of the carotid arteries can contribute to increased blood pressure due to reduced blood flow to the brain. Additionally, shared risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the development of both carotid artery disease and hypertension. Proper management of both conditions is essential to reduce the risk of complications and promote overall cardiovascular health.