The carotid artery is the large vertical artery in red. The blood supply to the carotid artery starts at the arch of the aorta (bottom). The carotid artery divides into the internal carotid artery and the external carotid artery. The internal carotid artery supplies the brain. Plaque often builds up at that division, and causes a narrowing (stenosis). Pieces of plaque can break off and block the small arteries above in the brain, which causes a stroke. Plaque can also build up at the origin of the carotid artery at the aorta.

Depending on the severity of the blockage, some patients are best treated with medications and lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation and exercise, while others may require treatment with therapies such as carotid endarterectomy or carotid artery stenting.

Carotid Endarterectomy: Complications

Carotid Endarterectomy: Discharge Instructions