Angioplasty is used to widen the carotid arteries and restore blood flow to the brain. A thin tube with a deflated balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel in your neck to the narrowed or blocked carotid artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to push the plaque outward against the wall of the artery. A stent (a small mesh tube) is then put in the artery to support the inner artery wall. The stent also helps prevent the artery from becoming narrowed or blocked again.
A stroke also can occur if blood clots form in the carotid arteries. This can happen if the plaque in an artery cracks or ruptures. Blood cell fragments called platelets stick to the site of the injury and may clump together to form blood clots. Blood clots can partly or fully block a carotid artery. A piece of plaque or a blood clot also can break away from the wall of the carotid artery. The plaque or clot can travel through the bloodstream and get stuck in one of the brain’s smaller arteries. This can block blood flow in the artery and cause a stroke. Carotid artery disease may not cause signs or symptoms until the carotid arteries are severely narrowed or blocked. For some people, a stroke is the first sign of the disease.