Carotid Artery Disease Treatments

Overview

What Is Your Carotid Artery?

Your carotid artery runs along both sides of your neck and carries blood to your brain. When one or both of these arteries narrow (a condition called stenosis) or get blocked, your brain may not get enough blood. You are then at risk of having a stroke or other medical problems.

How Is Carotid Artery Disease Treated?

Carotid artery disease — or the narrowing or blockage of these key arteries — is typically caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque, a waxy material, builds up in your arteries.

Aurora’s advanced treatments for carotid artery disease focus on preventing disease from getting worse and reopening narrow or blocked arteries with:

  • Medication
  • Minimally invasive procedures, or
  • Vascular surgery

World-Class Care

Carotid Artery Disease Treatment at Aurora

Our extensive vascular team offers:

  • A minimally invasive treatment philosophy: Whenever possible, we try to avoid invasive (surgical) solutions for carotid artery disease. We treat the condition with medication and carotid angioplasty and stenting (an outpatient, nonsurgical procedure).
  • Extensive experience: We treat more people with vascular conditions than any other health system in Wisconsin. We are experts at what we do — caring for all of your vascular needs, no matter how simple or complex.
  • Advanced equipment: Our surgical equipment, including our catheterization and angioplasty tools, are constantly updated. You are getting state-of-the-art carotid arterial disease treatments available.
  • Caring professionals: Our experienced surgeons, nurses and technicians are dedicated to your comfort and safety. They will fully explain your treatment options and make sure you understand your choices.

Treatments

Carotid Artery Disease Treatments

To improve the health of your carotid arteries and to lower your chance of having a stroke, your doctors will talk to you about the following treatment options, depending on your condition:

Medication

Several medications can thin your blood, so it is less likely to clot and block your carotid artery. They include:

  • Antiplatelets: This medication affects the platelets (cell proteins) in your blood to prevent your blood from clotting.
  • Anticoagulants: We use these drugs to help block the blood-clotting process. Learn more about our Anticoagulation Clinics.
  • Tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA): This treatment helps dissolve a clot while a stroke is in progress.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Medical treatments typically include endovascular (inside the artery) treatments, such as carotid angioplasty and stenting. In these procedures, your doctor will attempt to widen any narrow spots in your artery during testing. You can often go home the same day you undergo your procedure.

  • Carotid angioplasty: Your doctor will use a small tube (catheter) to insert a tiny, uninflated balloon into your artery. When your doctor inflates the balloon, it compresses the plaque tightly against your arterial walls and leaves more room for blood to flow.
  • Stenting: Your doctor may insert a stent if your artery is at risk of narrowing again. A stent is a mesh, metal tube that keeps your carotid artery open. Your doctor would insert the stent during your angioplasty.

Vascular Surgery

The primary surgical treatment for treating carotid artery disease is carotid endarterectomy. During this procedure, your doctor makes an incision in your neck to remove plaque that has built up in your carotid artery.

The surgery takes about two hours. You will most likely have to stay in the hospital for a few days to recover.

Learn more about carotid endarterectomy.

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