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What is carotid artery dissection?

Carotid artery dissection is a condition that begins as a tear in one of the carotid arteries on either side of the neck. This tear allows blood under arterial pressure to enter the wall of the artery and splits its layers. Intramural hematomas or aneurysmal dilatation is the end result, both of which can be a source of micro-emboli, which have a mass effect on surrounding structures.

Carotid artery dissection is a definite cause of ischemic stroke in all age groups and most frequently occurs when people are in their 50's, accounting for a much larger percentage of strokes in young patients. Dissection of the internal carotid artery sometimes occurs intracranially or extracranially, with the latter being more frequent.

Symptoms

Symptoms of carotid artery dissection may include:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Facial droop
  • Pulsatile tinnitus (whooshing sound in one ear)
  • Stroke with visual disturbance
  • Sudden neck pain, head pain or face pain with neurologic symptoms such as a small pupil on one side or drooping eyelid, also known as Horner's syndrome
  • Vision loss in one eye (also called amaurosis fugax)
  • Weakness on one side of the body
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