Does a normal carotid angiogram mean you’re safe from getting a blood clot that can cause a stroke or TIA?

You had a normal carotid angiogram a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago, and thus feel immune to a TIA (transient ischemic attack).

Those peculiar symptoms you just had couldn’t possibly be a TIA, since your recent carotid angiogram didn’t concern your doctor. Think again.

Can a clean or non-concerning carotid angiogram mean that a person doesn’t have to worry about getting a TIA?

“No, since the carotid arteries are just one potential source of the atherosclerotic debris that can cause a TIA,” says William R. Davis, MD, cardiologist and author of “Wheat Belly.”

Another common source is the thoracic aorta, the large artery that emerges from the heart that not uncommonly gathers atherosclerotic plaque.

“Less commonly, debris or clots from other areas including the heart can be sources.”

So there you have it; it’s great to have a clean carotid angiogram, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re in the clear when it comes to having a transient ischemic attack, or having risk factors for a TIA.

A normal carotid angiogram does not get you off the hook from suffering, in the near future, from a TIA, also known as a “mini-stroke.”

An Image Isn’t the Future

An image of your carotid arteries is like a snapshot in time; at that moment, the image may show a non-concerning set of arteries, nothing alarming.

But a snapshot in time is just that; a snapshot to show that particular moment.

And though a snapshot of clean carotid arteries is much more reassuring than an image of plaque-caked carotid arteries, realize that soon down the road, the snapshot can change – kind of like taking a picture of a clear blue sky – a snapshot in time – yet a few hours later, there are thunder clouds.

This isn’t to say that non-concerning carotid arteries can end up 90 percent clogged a few hours later.

But it’s the principle you need to understand: Today’s normal carotid angiogram cannot predict a TIA a few weeks down the road, even a few days into the future.

The carotid angiogram is a valuable tool for physicians, but it is not a crystal ball.

To minimize occurrence of a first-time transient ischemic attack, and of a subsequent TIA, it’s important to track the plaque in your heart (see

Dr. Davis is founder of the Track Your Plaque program for heart disease prevention and reversal.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.