This article is a good reference for finding out what carotid artery disease is and when an operation is necessary. It is written by Dr. Jose Biller of the Indiana School of Medicine and Dr. William H. Thies of the American Heart Association.
Carotid arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your brain. Located on either side of the neck, you can feel your pulse through them. When these arteries become ineffective due to cholesterol or fat build-up, carotid artery disease is present. These built up deposits are known as ‘plaque.’ It causes the arteries to harden. Carotid artery disease is diagnosed when the plague has built up enough to cause a blockage. When this happens, the patient is at risk for stroke as the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients needed to function. Risk factors include: smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and family histories of carotid artery disease or coronary artery disease (CAD). Symptoms of carotid artery disease include: difficultly swallowing or speaking, mental confusion, dizziness, clumsiness, mental confusion, or numbness on one side of your body. If you are at risk, speak with your physician about a lifestyle change. He may suggest walking or other exercise, a change in diet that is low in saturated fats and processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol, limiting alcohol consumption, or stopping smoking. Carotid artery disease may have no symptoms. That is why it’s imperative for people at risk to get regular physical examinations. If your doctor suspects carotid artery disease, he will order tests such as an angiogram, ultrasound, or CT scan (commonly called a ‘cat’ scan). Your physician may prescribe a daily low-dose aspirin or an anticoagulant (blood thinner). By reading this article, you can find out just what prompts a physician to choose to operate.