Extracranial Carotid Artery Aneurysm

Overview

An extracranial carotid artery aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of one of your carotid arteries – the two main blood vessels on either side of your neck that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain. 

The bulge develops because the artery wall is weak in that spot. If one develops in the part of the artery inside your brain rather than in your neck, it’s called an intracranial carotid artery aneurysm.

Though extracranial carotid artery aneurysms seldom rupture, blood clots can form in them. If a clot breaks loose, it can block blood flow to your brain.

You’re more likely to develop an extracranial carotid artery aneurysm as you age, if you smoke or if you have:

  • A connective tissue disorder
  • A family history of aneurysms
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms

Extracranial carotid artery aneurysms don’t always trigger symptoms. But if they get large enough, you can have:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Facial swelling
  • A hoarse voice 

If a blood clot breaks away from an extracranial carotid artery aneurysm, it can cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke that temporarily stops blood from reaching your brain. If you have symptoms or if you think you’re at risk for a carotid artery aneurysm, it's important that you talk to your doctor.

Diagnosis

To diagnose an extracranial carotid artery aneurysm, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you have. He or she may also order diagnostic tests, such as:

Services & Treatment

If you’re diagnosed with a carotid artery aneurysm, your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Your plan may include:

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