Intracranial atherosclerosis is an unfavorably occurring and serious neurovascular disorder recognized by the building up of atherosclerotic plaques in one’s arteries supplying blood towards the brain. Intracranial atherosclerosis is a medical condition identified by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries within the brain due to the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques.
These plaques consist of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular debris, calcium deposits, and other materials that build-up to the inner wall areas of the arteries giving way to blood to come to the brain. As the plaques accumulate, they progressively reduce blood flow to critical regions of the brain, leading to potentially serious consequences such as ischemic stroke.
Intracranial atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits, cholesterol, and other substances accumulate on the inner walls of the brain’s arteries. Over time, these deposits can harden and narrow the arteries, restricting blood flow to vital brain regions. Reduced blood flow increases the risk of clot formation, potentially leading to ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke.
Several risk factors contribute to the development of intracranial atherosclerosis, including:
The risk increases with age, particularly in individuals over 50 years old.
High blood pressure damages blood vessel walls, promoting atherosclerosis.
Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Poorly managed diabetes is associated with vascular damage and increased atherosclerosis risk.
Tobacco use accelerates plaque formation and narrows blood vessels.
Excess body weight and abdominal fat contribute to atherosclerosis development.
Family history: A family history of atherosclerosis or stroke raises an individual’s risk.
Early diagnosis of intracranial atherosclerosis is crucial for effective treatment. Physicians may use a combination of imaging techniques and clinical assessments to diagnose the condition:
This non-invasive imaging technique uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of blood vessels in the brain.
CTA involves injecting a contrast dye into the blood vessels and taking X-ray images to visualize arterial structures.
DSA is an invasive procedure in which a contrast dye is injected directly into the arteries to obtain detailed images.
Transcranial Doppler or TCD is a less invasive imaging process that uses ultrasound to measure blood flow in major brain arteries and veins.
Assessment of the patient’s medical records, risk factors and the symptoms are carefully and accurately done to support the diagnosis.
Some treatment techniques for this neurological condition aim to prevent the stroke from happening, manage risk factors, and improve blood flow to the brain. A tailored approach is important. A lot of consideration for factors such as age, comorbidities, and how severe is the condition. The main treatment plan are consists of:
Lifestyle changes form the foundation of intracranial atherosclerosis treatment and may include:
Stop Smoking : Quitting smaoking cigarettes completely lessens the risk of more plaque formation and stroke.
Healthy Diet: Committing into a diet plan that consists of nutritional value from fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is the easier step but often the hardest to sustain. Monitoring and controlling the saturated fats and trans-fat that enters the body will result in good management of lipid levels and heart health is also achieved alongside this process.
Medications like aspirin or clopidogrel are commonly prescribed to inhibit platelet aggregation and prevent clot formation.
Statins are the primary medications used to manage hyperlipidemia and slow the progression of atherosclerosis.
Medications that lower blood pressure, like ACE inhibitors or calcium channel blockers, help in controlling hypertension and protect blood vessels from clots.
For diabetic patients, the use of tight glycemic control with oral hypoglycemic agents or insulin is very important to lessen the damage to the vascular.
In cases of severe intracranial atherosclerosis with recurrent symptoms despite optimal medical management, endovascular procedures may be considered:
A catheter with a deflated balloon is threaded into the narrowed artery, and then the balloon is inflated to widen the artery. A stent may be placed to maintain the arterial patency.
In acute stroke situations caused by large artery occlusion, mechanical thrombectomy can be performed to remove the clot and restore blood flow.
In rare cases where medical therapy and endovascular procedures are not suitable, bypass surgery may be considered by CURA Specialists. This involves redirecting blood flow around the narrowed artery using a healthy blood vessel taken from another part of the body.
Optimising treatment strategies for intracranial atherosclerosis is essential in preventing debilitating strokes and improving patients’ quality of life. A comprehensive approach involving lifestyle modifications, medication, and potential endovascular or surgical interventions can effectively manage the disease.
Diagnosing it early, critical risk factor management, and ongoing monitoring are very important to achieve favourable results in patients with intracranial atherosclerosis. Always consult with certified healthcare experts to come up with a customised and curated treatment plan based on the patient’s specific situation and medical history.