Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

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Intracranial atherosclerosis disease (ICAD) happens when arteries to the brain become blocked with deposits of fat and cholesterol, increasing your risk of stroke. Houston Methodist offers comprehensive, personalized treatment to manage symptoms and slow disease progression.

Houston Methodist’s multidisciplinary neurology team is uniquely positioned to diagnose and treat intracranial atherosclerotic disease. We offer leading-edge, evidence-based treatment options, including clinical trial therapies that are not yet widely available at other centers.  

Our experts will partner with you to create a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your future health. 

Diagnosing & Treating Intracranial Atherosclerotic Disease

How is intracranial atherosclerotic disease diagnosed?

Intracranial atherosclerotic disease can start at a young age and progress slowly. It may not cause any symptoms until the arteries are narrow enough to reduce blood flow to the brain. This condition is also referred to as atherosclerosis, stenosis or hardening of the arteries. 

The first symptoms may occur during a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain, also known as a transient ischemic attack or a stroke. Symptoms can include: 

  • Confusion 
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • Unclear or slurred speech 
  • Temporary blurred vision or vision loss 
  • Clumsiness or poor coordination 
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg 
  • Sudden weakness on one side of the body
  • Paralysis, or suddenly being unable to move an arm, leg, or one side of the body 


After discussing your symptoms and conducting a physical exam, your specialist will recommend tests and exams to gather information about the blood vessels and tissues in your brain. Next steps may include: 

  • Transcranial Doppler ultrasound  
  • Cerebral angiogram 
  • CTA or CT 
  • MRA or MRI 

There are several risk factors for intracranial atherosclerotic disease, including:  

  • Age 
  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 
  • Lack of exercise 
  • High-fat or high-cholesterol diet 
  • Family history and genetic factors 
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) 
  • Elevated fats in the blood (hyperlipidemia)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption 


Depending on your results, we will develop a personalized treatment plan to help address your symptoms and improve your future health.

What treatments are available?

Our team of specialists will develop a personalized care plan based on the degree of your blockage, symptoms and overall health. Treatments may include: 

  • Cerebral angioplasty and stenting 
  • Cerebral artery bypass surgery 

What if I need advanced care or a second opinion?

Whether you need a precise diagnosis or a second opinion, we can help. Our specialists can pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and design a personalized treatment plan to restore your quality of life.

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Clinical trials can provide hope for patients who have not had success with standard or “best known” treatments.
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