Carotid stenosis is the medical description of the narrowing or constriction of the carotid artery. The artery is located in the neck, and the narrowing of the artery is caused by the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits). The process of atherosclerosis causes a hardening of the walls of the arteries and, in the case of atherosclerosis in the carotid artery, results in a carotid stenosis that reduces the flow of blood and nutrients to the brain.
The carotid arteries run up the sides of the neck. They are vital arteries, and are a route of blood to the anterior part of the brain and, via branches, to the eyes, forehead, and nose. The deposition of plaque along the inner wall of an artery narrows its diameter. This makes the clogged artery less efficient in transporting blood. Plaque formation can become so severe that an artery is effectively blocked.
Carotid stenosis poses another danger when bits of the plaque dislodge. These pieces, which are referred to as blood clots or emboli, can move upward with the flow of blood towards the brain and can become lodged, blocking blood flow. This blockage interrupts the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the brain, and is one of the causes of cerebral vascular accidents, known as stroke. Carotid stenosis is a form of cerebral vascular disease and atherosclerosis.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States after coronary artery disease and cancer, with approximately 750,000 strokes and more than 150,000 deaths occurring each year in the United States. Approximately 50% of these strokes are thought to be the result of carotid stenosis.
Brian Douglas Hoyle PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,