Carotid artery disease is a serious condition in which one or both of the major arteries supplying blood to the brain have become partially blocked.
The carotid arteries, which begin near the heart and extend through the neck into the head, are the primary source of blood for the brain.
Over time, these arteries may become partially blocked with gradual buildup of a fatty substance called plaque. The condition is known as atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries").
As these deposits build up, blood flow to the brain becomes restricted. Worse, this type of plaque buildup is the direct cause of almost a third of all strokes. A piece of the plaque can break off and travel to the brain, blocking blood flow in a smaller artery, or a blood clot can lodge in the carotid artery restriction. Either way, the brain is starved for oxygen-carrying blood and the result is a major stroke.
Effective treatments are available for carotid artery disease.
Carotid Endarterectomy. A type of surgery known as carotid endarterectomy can be used to remove the plaque from these arteries and restore blood flow to the brain. The surgeon exposes the carotid artery through a small incision in the neck, then peels away the plaque from the blocked area of the artery. Carotid endarterectomy is the third most common type of cardiovascular surgery in the United States and the surgeons at Phoebe have vast experience with the procedure.
Carotid Angioplasty and Stenting. The Phoebe Heart and Vascular Center also offers an innovative minimally invasive treatment for carotid artery disease using angioplasty and stenting. In this procedure, the surgeon inserts a very thin catheter into the artery through a small incision and places a tiny balloon at the location of the blockage. The balloon is then expanded to enlarge the blockage area, restoring blood flow. A small mesh spring, called a stent, may also be placed inside the restricted area to hold it open.
Studies have shown that surgical treatment for carotid artery disease is more effective than medicines alone in preventing stroke in patients with carotid blockage. A decision about which treatment may be best for each individual patient is made after consultation between the patient, family and Phoebe vascular surgeons.
For more information about Phoebe Heart and Vascular Center or to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our cardiologists, please call (229) 312-4438.