Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease (ICAD)

Neurovascular ProgramWhat is Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease?

Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease (ICAD) involves the accumulation of plaque within the arteries of the brain, much like what occurs in the arteries of the heart leading to heart attacks. This condition causes these vital arteries to narrow and become blocked, which can reduce blood flow to the brain.

Major Risk Factors for Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Genetic predisposition

Symptoms of Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

ICAD often does not show any symptoms until there is significant artery narrowing, which may result in stroke-like symptoms. These symptoms vary depending on which area of the brain is affected and can include:

  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body including the arm, leg, and face
  • Numbness or a decrease in sensation in these areas
  • Vision difficulties
  • Speech or comprehension challenges
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing

    Diagnosing Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

    ICAD is usually identified through imaging techniques like CAT scans or MRIs that examine the brain’s blood vessels. Sometimes, ICAD is discovered incidentally during evaluations for other medical issues. For more detailed views, a cerebral angiogram might be conducted, especially following stroke symptoms.

    Treatment Options for Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

    • Medications such as aspirin and other blood thinners to lower stroke risk.
    • Cholesterol-lowering medications, like statins, to help slow down plaque accumulation.
    • Lifestyle modifications and managing risk factors—controlling blood pressure and diabetes, and quitting smoking.
    • In some cases, procedural interventions such as angioplasty, stent placement, or cranial bypass surgery may be required. These are generally reserved for high-risk patients who do not respond to medical treatment.
    • This approach ensures comprehensive care for individuals at risk or diagnosed with Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease, focusing on both prevention and advanced treatment options.

    Ayer Neuroscience Institute