Intracranial Artery Stenosis

Intracranial artery stenosis is a narrowing of arteries inside the brain due to plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis.  

What’s in this section?

Signs and Symptoms

Often, the first sign of intracranial artery stenosis is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. The symptoms of TIA and stroke are similar, typically sudden and include the following:

  • Headache
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arms or legs, typically on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty seeing or loss of vision
  • Difficulty walking or loss of balance
  • Dizziness


Diagnosis starts with a physical exam and medical history. Other procedures and tests may be needed to diagnose, including: magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ), MR angiography ( MRA ) or computed tomography ( CT ) scans.

Treatment Options

There are different treatment options depending on the severity of stenosis:

  • Medication to reduce and/or control blood pressure and/or cholesterol.
  • Lifestyle changes to slow the buildup of fatty deposits in the artery.
  • Artery angioplasty and/or stenting These are treatments that are used to open the blood vessels to improve blood flow to the brain. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin or wrist and threaded through the body to the site of the carotid artery disease (usually in the neck).
    • In an angioplasty procedure, a small balloon is threaded by a catheter to the area of the blockage. The balloon is then inflated for a couple of seconds, to widen the artery, which improves blood flow through the neck and into the brain. The balloon is then removed from the patient.
    • In a stent procedure, a small metal tube is inserted into the artery to prevent the artery from narrowing again. The stent remains inside of the artery.

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