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Carotid Artery Dissection is a Significant Cause of Ischemic Stroke

Doctor and nurse smiling for their picture in the hallway Carotid artery dissection is a condition that begins as a small tear in the wall of the arteries that deliver blood to the brain. Blood traveling through the artery can leak out through the tear and become trapped in between the three layers of the arterial wall, causing the various layers of tissue to separate like a wet piece of plywood. As the blood accumulates in between the tissue layers, it can form a clot. This clot can then either become large enough to block the artery and inhibit blood flow, or travel through the blood stream and become lodged inside one of the arteries supplying the brain with blood. The latter situation is known as an ischemic stroke, a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. When a person develops a carotid artery dissection that leads to ischemic stroke, he or she may experience symptoms such as a sudden headache, muscle weakness, confusion, and vision loss in one eye. Because these symptoms can indicate an interruption in blood flow to the brain, they should be immediately reported to a medical professional.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a carotid dissection - dial 9-1-1 immediately. To diagnose a carotid artery dissection, a physician will use one or more advanced imaging technologies, such as:

  • A carotid artery duplex ultrasound
  • A catheter-based angiogram
  • A CT angiogram (CTA)
  • A MR angiogram (MRA)

Once the source of the bleeding is identified -  treatment can be provided to stop the hemorrhage and restore proper blood flow to the brain. Physicians may recommend blood-thinning or anti-coagulant medications or surgery, along with other treatments to address the underlying cause of the dissection. Patients who experienced a stroke as a result of a dissection may also require rehabilitative care to counter the effects of the related brain tissue damage.

At Tampa General Hospital, we offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary care 24 hours a day through our comprehensive stroke program. We are equipped to diagnose and treat patients with a carotid artery dissection, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), or other similar condition, and offer preventive and risk-reduction programs to help patients prevent further neurological episodes.