Carotid Artery Disease

Carotid Artery Disease occurs when the main blood vessel to the brain, called the carotid artery, becomes blocked. Over time, the buildup narrows the artery, decreases the blood flow to the brain and can lead to a stroke. The process is similar to the buildup of plaque in arteries in the heart that cause heart attacks. 

Fortunately, you may be able to prevent or slow carotid artery disease. Quitting smoking is the most important change you can make to avoid this disease. Otherwise, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key. 

Unfortunately, there may not be any symptoms of carotid artery disease. However, there are warning signs of a stroke. 

These include:

  • Sudden weakness or clumsiness of a hand
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis of an arm or leg
  • Unexplained slurring of speech or garbled talk
  • Sudden blurriness or blindness in one eye
  • Severe dizziness or near blackout
  • Severe headache

If the carotid artery has severe narrowing or blockage, a procedure must be done to open the artery and allow the blood to flow to the brain. One of newest, minimally invasive procedures is called carotid stenting. Jose Wiley, MD, St. Alexius Heart & Vascular Center, is a board-eligible interventional cardiologist who performs carotid stenting. "This procedure offers a much safer treatment option for high-risk patients," says Dr. Wiley. 

Carotid stenting is performed by using a specially designed catheter. An incision is made in the groin and the catheter is guided up to the narrowing in the carotid artery. The catheter carries a tiny balloon that inflates and deflates, flattening the plaque against the wall of the artery. Next, a stent is placed in the artery to hold it open and widen the passage for blood to flow. This procedure offers a safe and effective, non-surgical option to treat carotid artery disease. 

Dr. Wiley says that in the future these procedures will be used on everyone to treat this disease. By making some simple lifestyle changes, for example quitting smoking, you can greatly reduce your chances of developing the disease. Also, be sure to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol level. 

 Watch the KXMB-TV Interview with Dr. Wiley on Carotid Stenting.