Stroke Treatment: Carotid and Intracranial Stents

If you’ve had a stroke, or have severe atherosclerosis in the brain arteries, carotid or intracranial stents may be an option for you. By Mayo Clinic staff Atherosclerosis, a buildup of fat and other substances (called plaques), causes hardening and narrowing of the arteries throughout the body. When enough plaques build up or a blood clot develops, the artery can become blocked. Depending on where the blockage occurs, it can cause serious consequences including heart attack and stroke. When the blood supply to your brain is blocked, the blockage can cause a stroke. Strokes due to blockages of blood vessels can occur in two main areas: in the carotid artery in the neck the carotid artery is the main artery supplying blood to the brain or in an artery within the skull, called an intracranial artery. Stroke treatment or stroke prevention depends on where the blood vessel blockage or narrowing occurs. Stroke treatment or prevention can include treating blocked or narrowed arteries with medicine or removing the buildup of plaques with surgery (such as carotid endarterectomy). But these stroke treatment and stroke prevention options aren’t for everyone. For some, medication isn’t effective; for others, surgery is too risky because of the location of the plaques or other health issues. For atherosclerosis blocking the carotid arteries, angioplasty, a procedure to widen a blocked artery along with stenting, may be appropriate. Stents are small wire mesh coils that prop open the artery to improve blood flow. Angioplasty and stenting of carotid arteries may be an appropriate stroke treatment or stroke prevention option for some people who’ve had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or ministroke) but can’t undergo surgery. Stenting may also be an option for some narrowed intracranial arteries.