One of the leading causes of strokes in the U.S., carotid artery disease, affects millions and can lead to serious health complications if not treated. Backed by decades of experience, the heart and vascular experts at Bayhealth diagnose and manage carotid artery disease through a range of traditional and innovative treatment plans.
What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the carotid arteries of the neck, which feed oxygen-rich blood to the brain. If left untreated, the plaque could slow blood flow in the arteries or even break apart, sending particles to the brain, causing a stroke. There are nearly 500,000 new diagnoses of carotid artery disease in the U.S. each year, and the disease is estimated to contribute to a third of all strokes.
How to Get Diagnosed
The following diagnostic procedures may be used to identify carotid artery disease.
- Ultrasound: Doppler ultrasound creates images of the heart and blood vessels using sound waves.
- Computerized tomography angiography (CTA): A contrasting dye is injected into your blood vessels to “mark” the area of interest as images are taken of the arteries of your neck and brain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A magnetic field combined with radio waves creates three-dimensional images of the arteries of your neck and brain to detect disease or anything abnormal.
- Cerebral angiogram: A contrasting dye is injected using a thin tube (called a catheter) that is guided through your carotid arteries for the purposes of providing detailed X-rays.
Procedures and Treatment Plans
Treatment options for carotid artery disease differ depending on the patient. For less severe cases, your doctor may choose to manage the disease with medications and recommended lifestyle changes. However, for more severe cases, Bayhealth heart and vascular experts will use one of the following procedures to address carotid artery disease.
- Carotid endarterectomy: During this procedure, the vascular surgeon makes an incision in the neck and removes plaque from the artery, restoring a healthy blood flow and eliminating the risk of stroke.
- Carotid angioplasty and stenting: In this procedure, a small tube (catheter) is used to inflate a balloon inside the carotid artery, opening it up. A stent is then placed to keep the artery from narrowing again.
- Transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR): During this less-invasive alternative to carotid endarterectomy, the vascular surgeon makes a small incision in the neck and installs a device that reverses blood flow. Next, a stent is placed in the artery, allowing the device to capture plaque. This procedure minimizes your risk of stroke. Learn more about TCAR.