Extracranial Vascular Disease

When an artery outside of your skull becomes clogged or blocked, it’s called extracranial vascular disease. This may cause the walls of the artery to burst, which can lead to a stroke (also known as an aneurysm). Extracranial vascular disease is often caused by atherosclerosis – when fatty deposits called plaque form on the walls of your blood vessels, blocking the blood flow. 



Extracranial vascular disease usually has no symptoms. You may not even know you have it until you have a stroke. Some people may experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini stroke.”


To check for extracranial vascular disease, your doctor will order an MRI or CT scan. Your doctor may also order an angiogram, Doppler ultrasound or echocardiogram.

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Treatment Options

Your treatment will depend on where the blockage is located, how severe it is, and your age and health history. Your team at Aurora will work with you on the treatment that makes the most sense for you. Treatments for strokes may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising can reduce the chances of plaque building up in your vessels. 
  • Medications: You may need blood thinners or prescription drugs to help lower your blood pressure or improve your cholesterol.
  • Carotid endarterectomy: If you’ve had a stroke, this surgical procedure can lower your risk for another one by improving blood flow.
  • Angioplasty and stenting: These procedures improve blood flow by inserting small balloons or tubes into the affected vessels.

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