Dynamic, rapid sequence, axial computed tomography (CT) was employed to evaluate the extracranial common and internal carotid arteries in 17 patients with clinical histories suggesting recent or remote ischemia in the territory supplied by the internal carotid artery. The CT findings were correlated with arteriographic observations and with gross and histologic evaluations of endarterectomy specimens. Areas of arterial wall thickening were evaluated on CT scans with regard to both degree of thickening and radiographic density (attenuation). The degree of vessel wall thickening secondary to atheromatous plaque demonstrated on CT scans corresponded closely to the severity of luminal compromise seen on arteriograms. Isodense or mildly hypodense focal mural thickening noted on CT scans of seven endarterectomy specimens proved to be primarily fibrotic (simple) atheromatous plaque on gross and histologic examination. Areas of markedly lucent focal mural thickening on CT scans of 11 specimens all demonstrated varying amounts of subintimal hemorrhage within loosely arranged and rather acellular (complex) atheromatous plaques on pathologic examination. While arteriography provides information regarding the status of the arterial lumen, CT offers the potential of accurate characterization of pathologic changes in the wall of the extracranial carotid arteries in patients with symptoms of cerebral ischemia.