What is Carotid / Cerebrovascular Disease?
Carotid/cerebrovascular disease is a group of conditions that affect blood supply to the brain. This can be caused by a blockage, malformation or hemorrhage, but no matter which causes the problem, all can lead to a cerebrovascular event like a stroke. Whether or not this disease culminates in a stroke or other major event, any reduced blood flow to the brain can be devastating, as the brain controls all of the body’s major functions and requires normal blood flow to do so properly.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of cerebrovascular disease may vary depending on where in the brain they occur, but there are symptoms common to all of these conditions:
- Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
- Difficulty communicating/slurred speech
- Loss of balance
- Loss of vision on one side
- Sudden, severe headache
- Loss of consciousness
How is it Diagnosed?
Carotid/cerebrovascular disease is diagnosed beginning with a physical exam. The doctor will review the patient’s medical history and check for specific deficits, such as vision changes and abnormal eye movement, decreased sensory perception, muscle weakness, etc. If the doctor suspects cerebrovascular disease, one or more diagnostic tests may be ordered. Some of these include:
- Cerebral, Vertebral or Carotid Angiogram – This test uses dye to reveal any clots in these specific areas
- CT Scan – This test more accurately indicates hemorrhagic strokes rather than ischemic stroke
- MRI – This test can potentially detect strokes, even in the early stages
- EKG – This test can indicate a cardiac arrhythmia which increases risk for stroke
How is it Treated?
Time is of the essence when treating cerebrovascular disease. If it is an acute stroke, a medication called tPA may be given to break up the blood clot. This medicine can only be used during a short window of time, which is why rapid assessment is key. If the condition is a brain hemorrhage, a neurosurgeon needs to evaluate the patient and decide if surgery is necessary. If the problem requires a carotid endarterectomy, the plaque that is blocking the carotid artery needs to be surgically removed.Previous Page Last Review Date: May 20, 2019