Treating Carotid Artery Disease with a Minimally Invasive Endovascular Procedure

Treating Carotid Artery Disease with a Minimally Invasive Endovascular Procedure

Strokes don’t come out of the blue — often, the causes of a stroke have been building for years. With almost 800,000 people suffering from strokes every year, it is the 5th-leading cause of death in the US. While strokes may seem inevitable, recovering from a stroke and preventing another stroke has minimally invasive options. 

Our team of experienced medical professionals at Vascular Associates of San Diego in La Mesa, California take strokes seriously, and have been pioneers in treating patients who are at risk or recovering from strokes. We offer traditional treatments for carotid artery disease, the primary cause of stroke in the US, but a relatively new procedure could make a big difference in your life. 

What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease, sometimes called carotid artery stenosis, or CAD, occurs when a buildup of plaque narrows and hardens the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are some of the largest in the body, responsible for moving oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain, face, and neck. There are two carotid arteries on either side of your neck, and each splits into two branches. 

If you have a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, your carotid arteries can easily become clogged, hard, and narrow, making it difficult for the necessary blood to reach your brain. Hardened and narrowed carotid arteries constitute a condition called atherosclerosis. With a hard, narrow path for the blood to reach your brain, a stroke can happen for a variety of reasons: 

Though strokes don’t generally come out of the blue, the problem takes years, sometimes decades, to build, making it difficult to know your risk without consistent testing. Any of these scenarios can and do cause strokes, and all of these scenarios are emblematic of CAD. 

How do I treat CAD?

Our providers at Vascular Associates of San Diego offer a minimally invasive option to treat your CAD before you have a stroke, or another stroke. Transcarotid artery revascularization, or TCAR, can protect your long-term health without leaving you in the hospital for days or weeks. 

A TCAR procedure starts with a small incision near your clavicle, or collarbone. Through that tiny incision, your provider uses a tube to divert the flow of blood out of your artery. This prevents blood from carrying any plaque to the brain, while your provider manually removes plaque from the vulnerable artery. After clearing the artery, a stent is placed to keep your artery open. The diverted blood, cleaned of any debris, is replaced in your upper leg with the help of another tube.  

After your procedure, you may spend a night or two in the hospital, depending on what your provider determines is appropriate for you. Your provider will give you specific instructions on your aftercare before you are discharged, but expect to skip strenuous activity for at least one week. 

The weeks after your procedure are the best time to establish healthy, stroke-avoidant habits. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fiber, lean protein, and minimal sugar and saturated fat. Get a healthy amount of appropriate exercise for your age and fitness level. If you’re a smoker, ask for help from your primary care doctor with quitting. 

Diabetes and high blood pressure are two chronic conditions that raise your risk of developing CAD. Getting these conditions under control, with the help of your primary care doctor reduces your risk of developing CAD, which reduces your risk of having a stroke. Taking care of yourself after your TCAR procedure is as important as the procedure itself, as it helps stave off the risk of another stroke. 

How do I know I need TCAR?

Before your provider recommends any treatment for you, they meet with you for a comprehensive consultation, which includes going over your full medical history, testing, and evaluating all of your risk factors. If you have been diagnosed with CAD, and have other chronic conditions, we may be able to help you. Call us today or schedule an appointment online.

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