Intracranial stenosis (IS) refers to the narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel in the brain due to plaque or other substance building inside the artery wall. This can result in a reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to brain tissue, leading to various neurological symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and even stroke. Common risk factors for IS include high blood pressure, tobacco use, high cholesterol, and diabetes. IS can occur as a complication of other medical conditions, such as lupus, sickle cell anemia, and vasculitis.
IS symptoms can vary depending on the severity and location of the narrowing in the blood vessel. Some people with intracranial stenosis may have no symptoms, while others may experience symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms of intracranial stenosis may include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Vision changes, such as blurred vision, double vision, or temporary vision loss
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Speech difficulties
- Cognitive changes, such as confusion, memory loss, or difficulty concentrating
Your medical provider may diagnose IS using a combination of medical history, physical examination, neurological exam, and imaging tests. Possible imaging tests include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain and blood vessels. It can help detect areas of reduced blood flow and signs of stenosis.
- Computed tomography (CT) angiography: This test uses X-rays and a contrast agent to create detailed images of the blood vessels in the brain. It can help identify blockages and areas of reduced blood flow.
- Cerebral angiography: This test involves injecting a contrast agent into the bloodstream and taking X-ray images of the blood vessels in the brain. It provides the most detailed information about the location and severity of stenosis and can also be used to guide endovascular procedures.
How do you treat intracranial stenosis?
IS cannot be completely reversed, but prompt and appropriate treatment can help to manage the condition and prevent further narrowing or blockage of the affected blood vessel. The main goals of treatment are to reduce the risk of stroke and improve blood flow to the brain. Treatment options may include:
- Medications. Often the first line of treatment for IS, medications may include blood thinners, to prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke, or medications to control risk factors for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
- Lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake, can help reduce stroke risk and improve the overall health of people with IS.
- Minimally invasive procedures, such as an angioplasty, in which a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into the artery and inflated to widen the artery; or stenting, which involves placing a small metal mesh tube in the artery to hold it open.
- Surgery. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to bypass the blocked or narrowed artery. This involves creating a new path for blood to flow around the blocked area.
Why Choose NGHS
Northeast Georgia Medical Center is northeast Georgia’s preferred hospital for providing comprehensive neurological patient care. With a team of expert physicians and state-of-the-art facilities, we provide a broad range of diagnostic and treatment services for patients with neurological conditions. Should IS increase your chance of stroke, NGMC offers a comprehensive approach to stroke care, from early intervention treatments in the ER to inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services helping patients regain function and independence. Learn more about our advanced certifications.