Significant improvements have been made in the diagnosis of carotid artery disease and other vascular diseases in the past few years, and Inova Heart and Vascular Institute has been at the forefront of those innovations.
Based on your symptoms and the severity of the blockage, your vascular specialist will recommend treatment. A less severe condition may be treated with lifestyle modifications, medication and monitoring. Surgery may be recommended for more severe cases. Both traditional open and minimally invasive options are available at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.
Less Severe Cases
Carotid artery disease in which the narrowing of the carotid artery is mild or moderate and the patient is asymptomatic is most often treated with the following:
- Lifestyle changes such as increased exercise, a healthy diet and smoking cessation
- Treatment of existing conditions that may aggravate atherosclerosis, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Medications for maintaining blood flow, such as antiplatelet drugs, that reduce the ability of the blood to clot
More Severe Cases
In patients with significant narrowing of the carotid artery and symptoms, a more aggressive treatment may be recommended such as:
- Carotid endarterectomy: This is the traditional, open surgery method of treating carotid artery disease. During the procedure, which is performed under local or general anesthesia, surgeons clamp the diseased carotid artery to stop blood from flowing through it, make an incision into the blocked section of the artery, and remove the plaque deposit. The surgeon may also widen the artery using a synthetic patch or the patient’s vein. Patients can usually go home the following day.
- Carotid artery angioplasty with stenting (CAS): Our physicians have pioneered this minimally invasive procedure. A very small flexible tube, or catheter, is advanced from a blood vessel in the groin to the carotid arteries. Once the catheter is in place, a balloon may be inflated to open the artery and a stent is placed. A stent is a cylinder-like tube made of thin metal-mesh framework used to hold the artery open. An apparatus called an embolic protection device may be used while the stent is delivered into position. The device is a filter, like a small basket, that is attached on a guide wire to catch debris that may break off during the procedure.
- Transcarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR): TCAR is a minimally invasive, endovascular procedure that has demonstrated advantages compared to standard carotid stenting, especially for patients at higher risk of surgical complications, due to age, medical comorbidities or anatomical issues.