Objectives Lacunar infarcts are thought to be mostly due to intracranial small vessel disease. Therefore, when a stroke patient with a relevant lacunar infarct does have severe ipsilateral internal carotid artery (ICA) or middle cerebral artery (MCA) disease, it is unclear whether the arterial disease is causative or coincidental. If causative, we would expect ICA/MCA disease to be more severe on the symptomatic side than on the symptomatic side. Therefore, our aim was to compare the severity of ipsilateral with contralateral ICA and MCA disease in patients with lacunar ischaemic stroke. Methods We studied 259 inpatients and outpatients with a recent lacunar ischaemic stroke and no other prior stroke. We used carotid Duplex ultrasound and transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound to identify ICA and MCA disease, and compared our results with previously published data. Results In our study, there was no difference between the severity of ipsilateral and contralateral ICA stenosis within individuals (median difference 0%, Wilcoxon paired data p=0.24, comparing severity of ipsilateral and contralateral stenosis). The overall prevalence of severe ipsilateral stenosis was 5%, and the prevalence of severe contralateral stenosis was 4% (OR 1.6,95 % CI 0.6, 4.8). There was no difference in the prevalence of ipsilateral and contralateral MCA disease. A systematic review of the other available studies strengthened this conclusion. Conclusion Carotid stenosis in patients with a lacunar ischaemic stroke may be coincidental. Further studies are required to elucidate the causes of lacunar stroke, and to evaluate the role of carotid endarterectomy.