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Carotid Artery Disease: A Comprehensive Guide to Stenting and Endarterectomy

You have been diagnosed with carotid artery disease, but you’re not entirely sure what that means or what your prognosis encompasses. Carotid artery disease, or carotid artery stenosis, is related to cardiovascular disease. It involves the narrowing of the carotid arteries in the neck, the blood vessels that feed the brain.

What Causes Carotid Artery Disease?

Fatty substances and cholesterol, called plaque accumulating on artery walls, are responsible for this health problem. Plaque that builds up and clogs blood vessels produces atherosclerosis, a narrowing of blood vessels. Cholesterol, fibrous tissue, calcium and cellular debris mix with fat to form plaque that accumulates at injury sites within your arteries.

Carotid Artery Disease Can Result in Stroke

Narrowed carotid arteries resulting from coronary artery disease put patients at risk for a stroke, which can result in a permanent loss of function or even death. That’s because those arteries deliver oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is the primary cause of disability, especially in older people. Often, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a mini-stroke with a temporary loss of brain function, is the first sign that someone may have carotid artery disease.

What are the Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease?

Carotid artery disease is silent in its early stages, often progressing until it begins to deprive your brain of blood. The signs of a TIA and stroke are relatively the same. In its early stages, carotid artery disease often doesn’t produce any signs, and it may progress unnoticed until it’s severe enough to deprive your brain of blood, causing a stroke or TIA. Signs and symptoms of a mini-stroke or TIA include the sudden appearance of the following: • Trouble speaking and understanding • Numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, usually on one side of the body • Loss of balance or dizziness • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes • Severe headache with no discernable cause

Procedures to Avoid Strokes

Severe carotid artery blockages require intervention to prevent the possibility of a stroke. The two most common interventions are carotid endarterectomy and carotid angioplasty with stenting.

Carotid Endarterectomy

This is the most common treatment for severely blocked carotid arteries and involves making an incision along the front of the neck to open the affected carotid artery to remove plaque and restore blood flow to the brain. It is done under general or local anesthesia and with the surgeon closing the area with stitches or a graft.

Carotid Angioplasty With Stenting

If a blockage is too difficult to reach or a patient has conditions that make endarterectomy too risky, this procedure is the next choice. It involves the insertion of a catheter with a tiny balloon at the tip that inflates to widen the artery and includes a wire mesh called a stent, which is left in place to prevent the artery from narrowing. To learn more about endarterectomy and stents to prevent strokes, schedule a consultation with South Florida Vascular Associates.