The carotid arteries are necessary for blood flow to the brain, but when they become narrow, carotid stenting may be the best method of treatment for you. Carotid stenting is a common procedure for carotid artery disease. In carotid artery disease, plaque builds up in the artery making it very narrow. The blood that is supposed to flow through the artery is either limited or in the case of complete blockage, hindered altogether. The purpose of the procedure is to widen the artery and push the plaque that is blocking the artery back against the walls, so blood flow is returned to normal.
Carotid artery disease ranges from mild to severe. In mild cases, plaque coats the walls of the arteries but blood is still able to flow normally. Sometimes carotid artery disease can be cured with a change in diet and lifestyle. In more severe cases, the plaque builds up so much that it blocks the whole artery. This is very serious because it puts you at risk for stroke. You may think it would lead to a heart attack, but it does not. The carotid arteries supply the brain with oxygen and blood. There are two, so if one is blocked, you may not have a stroke immediately, but you are at a high risk. The brain cannot survive without oxygen and blood. Taking note of any signs of carotid artery disease is important. Some people do not notice until they have a stroke.
There are many options for treatment of carotid artery disease. Treatment options are dependent upon how much plaque there is in the artery. If the artery is over 50% blocked, carotid stenting may not be the best option. The doctor will do a lot of tests to come up with the best treatment. If carotid stenting is the best method of treatment for you, you should have a good understanding of what it is and what is being done.
Carotid stenting involves quite a few steps. It also involves the placement of mesh. To start off the procedure the doctor does angioplasty. This is a procedure that is done all on its own sometimes. The doctor inserts a catheter into the blocked area of the artery. Once the catheter is in place, the doctor inflates a tiny balloon attached to the catheter. This balloon widens the artery and pushes the plaque against the artery wall. Once that is done, the catheter is removed. Sometimes angioplasty is all that is needed. The artery is sewn up, and you go into recovery. For carotid stenting, this is just the first step.
The next step of the procedure is to add the stent. The word stent sounds like some heavy metal piece, but it is not. It is a mesh tube. The mesh is good for support and keeping the artery wide. The stent allows for blood to flow normally again. It also prevents the artery from being blocked in that area again.
The procedure is not as invasive so it is good for those who are at a high risk and cannot undergo a procedure like an endarterectomy. If you have already had a stroke or trying to avoid a stroke, this is a great method of treatment. Sometimes the procedure is done if you continue to get plaque build up. If you are at a high risk because of your health and other health problems, the doctor may also suggest this over other methods of treatment.
This procedure is not without its risks. The risks include restenosis. It is rare for the artery to narrow again after a stent placement but it is possible. Blood clots are another risk. Sometimes after surgery, the doctor will put you on a medication regimen to help reduce the chance of clots. Bleeding and infection is a risk with all surgeries, especially ones that affect blood vessels. Although you are having surgery to prevent stroke, the surgery may also cause a stroke. The stroke will either occur from blood clots that form during the procedure or plaques that break off and travel to the brain during the procedure. The doctor tries to limit this risk with blood thinners, but it is not always effective.
When it comes to carotid artery disease, what you should know is that it can be prevented. This disease may run in your family, but you can control it. It does not have to be a part of your life. The best ways to prevent carotid artery disease is changing your habits. If you are a smoker, quit. If you eat are sedentary, get up and do physical activity. If you eat terribly, eat better. I know all these things are easier said than done but you just have to start somewhere. You have to make better choices for yourself, so you do not have to deal with surgery. If you already have a carotid artery disease diagnosis, you should talk with your doctor about carotid stenting. This could save your life and help prevent future artery stenosis.
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