A bulge in the wall of an artery in your neck

The carotid arteries are the two main blood vessels on either side of the neck that supply blood to the brain. An extracranial carotid artery aneurysm stretches out the walls of a portion of the artery in the neck like a balloon, causing the walls to become very thin. This differs from an intracranial carotid artery aneurysm, in which the bulge appears in the portion of the artery located inside the brain.

These aneurysms can create blood clots that can break loose and cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. They can also tear, causing life-threatening bleeding.

What are the symptoms?

A large aneurysm can create pressure on surrounding areas in the neck and can cause symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Stroke-like symptoms
  • Swelling in the face

Tests

Diagnosing an extracranial carotid artery aneurysm is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Carotid Duplex Ultrasound

Carotid duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to your brain.

Treatments

If the aneurysm is small or not causing symptoms, your doctor may recommend close monitoring to watch for changes. If it’s larger or has a clot in it, they may recommend medication or surgery. Lowering blood pressure or cholesterol may be advised to help maintain the health of your arteries. If your aneurysm is very large or at risk of rupturing, your doctor may recommend other advanced treatments..

Carotid Artery Disease Treatments

Carotid artery disease may be slowed or treated through lifestyle changes, medication, endarterectomy, or angioplasty and stenting.

Read our Cardiovascular Performance & Outcomes Booklet

Ask MHVI

Have questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net.