Carotid artery disease develops when deposits known as plaques form in your carotid arteries, which transport blood to the brain and head. Also known as carotid stenosis, the condition increases your risk of stroke, which deprives the brain of oxygen and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. 

To prevent this potentially life-threatening medical emergency, if you’ve been diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis, you may be advised to receive treatment. Here’s a closer look into the types available, and how to select the best option for your needs.

Lifestyle Modifications

In mild cases of carotid artery disease, the objective of treatment is to stop the progression of the condition. Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, routine exercise, and smoking cessation may be recommended. You may also be advised to take medication to control your blood pressure or cholesterol. Take note however that these approaches are typically only advised for patients in whom the risk for stroke or transient ischemic attack (temporary blockages known as “mini strokes”) is low. 

Anti-Platelet Medication

“Antiplatelet drugs prevent blood clots from forming by stopping platelets from sticking together,” explains ((VSA HEALTH EXPERT XXX)). While these medications can reduce the risk of stroke in people with carotid artery stenosis, they also carry their own risks. “Most notably,” says ((VSA HEALTH EXPERT XXX)), “by preventing the blood from clotting, they can also lead to excessive bleeding.” Also be warned that accidental overdose of antiplatelet drugs can be life-threatening.

Carotid Endarterectomy

If you’ve been diagnosed with a severe blockage or you’ve already experienced a stroke or transient ischemic attack, you’ll likely be advised to have the blockage removed. There are two options for doing so: carotid endarterectomy and carotid artery stenting.

Carotid endarterectomy is a treatment in which the plaque, or blockage, is surgically removed from the artery. The treatment is effective, long-lasting, and safe. The procedure is performed under general or regional anesthesia, and most patients are able to go home the next day.

Carotid Artery Stenting

Stenting is an alternative to carotid endarterectomy in which a stent is inserted in the carotid artery to open it up, thereby allowing blood flow to the brain. In this procedure, the surgeon places a stent in your artery through a needle puncture, which then opens the artery up and traps the plaque between the stent and the wall of the artery.

In general, stenting is a safe procedure with strong outcomes. It’s sometimes considered safer than carotid endarterectomy because it doesn’t involve an incision in the carotid artery. The short-term outcomes for stenting may include a higher risk of stroke, but the long-term outcomes from a successful stenting are no different from carotid endarterectomy.

Factors such as your unique anatomy and age may be weighed when helping you determine the best surgical approach for carotid artery stenosis. For example, younger patients face lower risks of stroke after stenting, compared to those over the age of 70.

The highly trained surgeons at Vascular Surgical Associates can help you make an informed decision for the best carotid artery disease treatment based on your needs. We have 11 board-certified vascular surgeons who specialize in treating carotid artery disease. Browse through our locations online, and set up a consultation by calling 770-423-0595.