According to the American Stroke Association, each year nearly 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke. Most strokes occur when there is not enough blood supply to the brain. A substantial percentage of these result from blockages in the carotid artery.
Where is the carotid artery?
The carotid arteries are located on either side of the neck in the front and provide 80% of the brain’s blood supply.
Am I at risk for a carotid artery blockage?
If you have a family history of coronary artery disease or carotid artery disease, you may be at risk for developing a carotid artery blockage. Other risk factors include older age, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and elevated bad cholesterol. A mini-stroke or stroke could also be a symptom that you are experiencing a carotid artery blockage.
Symptoms of stroke or mini-stroke can include feeling weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of your body or face, losing vision in one eye, or being unable to speak clearly. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
How is a blockage of the carotid artery diagnosed?
One way to diagnose a blockage of the carotid artery is through a carotid ultrasound. This is a painless, non-invasive imaging procedure that uses sound waves to view the blood vessels in the neck and to determine the presence of narrowing in the carotid arteries. Other non-invasive alternatives include CT scans and MRIs. Finally, carotid angiography can be used to diagnose a carotid artery blockage. This is an invasive imaging procedure that involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in the arm or leg, guiding it to the carotid arteries with the aid of a special x-ray machine and injecting dye to help visualize the arteries and any blockages that might be present.
What is the standard procedure for addressing a blockage in the carotid artery?
In the past, the most commonly utilized procedure was to create an incision in the neck, open the artery and remove the blockage, a procedure called ‘Carotid Endarterectomy.’ Carotid artery stenting has now emerged as an alternative for many patients and appears to be at least as effective as surgery at reducing the chance of future stroke, less risky and typically has a shorter recovery time. In the United States, carotid artery stenting is rapidly overtaking surgery as the method of choice for correcting carotid artery blockages among patients at elevated risk of undergoing surgery.
What is carotid artery stenting?
Carotid artery stenting is a minimally invasive procedure and an alternative to open surgery to fix carotid artery blockages. A balloon shaped catheter and stent (metal scaffold) are inserted through the skin, typically in the leg. It then winds through your body’s blood vessels and up to your neck arteries (carotid arteries) where they are used to push the blockage out of the way and prop the vessel open afterward.
Why is carotid artery stenting important to patients?
Having a blockage in the carotid artery increases a patient’s risk of stroke. This newer option can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 50%. It is an alternative to more invasive surgical procedures that requires an incision and often, general anesthesia. Patients who undergo this procedure are typically home in less than 24 hours. Carotid artery stenting is at least as effective, and in some ways safer than open surgery for some patients.
How can I prevent carotid artery blockage?
There are many ways to reduce your chances of developing blockage in the carotid artery. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are the most significant lifestyle changes to make. Controlling conditions such as diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure additionally decrease your blockage risk.
Is Carotid Artery stenting for everyone?
No, this procedure is not for everyone. The FDA approves it for those who have significant blockages in the carotid artery and who are felt to be at an elevated risk of undergoing surgery.