Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery
<< back to main questions page

Questions every patient should ask their doctor
prior to signing a consent for vascular intervention.

Sponsored by the SCVS Ad Hoc Committee on Patient Advocacy.

Carotid Artery Occlusive Disease

  1. What is a “light stroke”?
    • Stroke symptoms that resolve over a relatively short period of time
    • TIA – transient ischemic attack, symptoms last less than 24 hours
    • Symptoms most often consist of right arm/leg or left arm/left leg weakness or numbness Symptoms also include slurring of speech, facial asymmetry, and blindness in one eye.
    • It is a warning symptom for a major stroke
    • Pain is not a symptom of stroke
  2. Is dizziness of sign of stroke?
    • Dizziness or a lightheaded feeling is rarely by itself a sign of stroke
    • Dizziness may be caused by several factors including heart problems, problems with the ear, or problems inside the brain itself.
    • It can in rare instances be caused by a blockage in the artery that goes to the back of the brain
  3. What is amaurosis fugax?
    • Amaurosis Fugax is a fleeting blindness in one eye only
    • It usually lasts only a few minutes
    • It is a warning symptom of a possible stroke
    • It never involves both eyes at the same time
    • Blockage in the carotid artery does not produce blurring of vision in both eyes
    • Rarely, blurred vision may be caused by a blockage in the artery going to the back of the brain
  4. If I have a light stroke, what are my chances of having a permanent stroke if I don’t have treatment?
    • Your chances of having a stroke depend on the degree of blockage in your carotid artery
    • If blockage is greater than 70% your risk of having a stroke is 36% over 5 years, with 18%, about 1 in 5 occurring within the first year.
  5. Which is the best procedure, surgery or a stent?
    • Risk of stroke with surgery should be 1-2%. Risk of stroke with stent reported in recent study was 4.2%
    • Risk of heart attack was higher with surgery, but heart attacks were usually very mild and rarely resulted in permanent problems.
  6. How much blockage is significant?
    • If you do not have any symptoms, a 60% or greater blockage is considered to be significant
    • The more blockage you have the greater your risk of stroke.
    • If you have had symptoms, a 50% blockage is considered to be significant
  7. If I have to have a procedure performed, how quickly does it have to be done?
    • If should be performed as soon as reasonably possible. No one can predict when a permanent stroke will occur. It is, however, in general, not an emergency.
    • If you have symptoms, earlier intervention is recommended

Please help the SCVS by answering the following questions:

  1. Are you a patient?
    Yes        No

  2. If you answered “No” above, please explain your interest in this information.

  3. Did you find this information helpful?
    Yes        No

  4. What recommendations do you have for future information that would be of interest to you?

  5. Do you have any other topic suggestions or questions you would like answered?