What is the carotid artery?
The carotid artery is a main artery located in the front part of the neck. Through the carotid artery, the blood from the heart goes to the brain. There are 2 "common" carotid arteries: the right and left common carotid arteries, one on each side of the neck. Together, the right and left common carotid arteries provide the main blood supply to the head and neck.
The left common carotid arises directly from the aorta (the huge artery that distributes blood from the heart to the body). The right common carotid artery arises from the brachiocephalic artery that, in turn, leaves the aorta.
Each of the two common carotid arteries divides to form internal and external carotid arteries. The external carotids are more superficial (closer to the surface) than the internal carotids (which extend deep into the neck).
Cholesterol plaques on the inner wall of the carotid artery can cause strokes.
The carotid comes from the Greek "karotides", which refers to the main arteries that go to the head. Interestingly, "karotides" is related to the words "katotikos", narcotics and "karos", deep sleep. The ancient Greeks knew that firm pressure on the carotid arteries produced a "deep sleep" by leaving an unconscious person.
To translate medical terms into everyday English and dispel the mystique that surrounds them, visit the MedicalNet.com Medical Dictionary, www.MedTerms.com. There you will find entries, like this one, in the carotid artery.
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