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Disease Information : Carotid Artery Disease : Treatment

Carotid Artery Disease : Treatment

How is carotid artery disease treated?

Treatment for carotid artery disease normally consists of normalization of those risk factors that cause artery blockages, specific medications (usually antiplatelet medications), and sometimes treatment to open the narrowed carotid artery with an angioplasty and stent, or by a surgical procedure. Anyone with any degree of narrowing of a carotid artery, or with any history of stroke or TIA, should quit the use of all tobacco products immediately, control their high blood pressure, normalize their blood cholesterol by diet and medications, and exercise regularly.

Doctors also will want to reduce your risk for developing blood clots in order to prevent stroke or heart attack. Your doctor may prescribe a daily antiplatelet medication, such as aspirin, Plavix (clopidogrel), Aggrenox (aspirin combined with dipyridamole), or warfarin. The choice of medication is one that is best made by your own physician. (See the story on page 3.) Individuals with severe blockages of the carotid artery (usually at least 60 - 70 percent blockage) may be recommended for a surgical treatment called carotid endarterectomy. During this procedure the plaque from inside the artery wall will be surgically removed and the blood flow is restored to normal. Carotid endarterectomy is successful because the plaque in the carotid artery is limited to a very small area in the mid-portion of the artery in the neck. Thisallows the procedure to be performed through a small incision, and in many cases under regional anesthesia. Most patients can go home the morning after surgery.

Recovery from surgery is usually rapid and people can quickly resume their normal activities without any restrictions.

A new "nonsurgical" endovascular treatment uses angioplasty and stents to open blocked carotid arteries. This procedure’s safety and efficacy continues to be studiedin several medical centers. This procedure involves the placement of a small flexible tube (catheter) into an artery from the groin. The catheter is then directed tothe neck to reach the carotid artery blockage. A balloon pushes open the artery wall and a stent (a small metallic coil) is often left to keep the artery open.

Prevention

Take care of your health through exercise and proper nutrition and take all medications as your doctor prescribes. If you have risk factors for carotid artery diseaseyou should talk with your health care professional. If you have any symptoms, never hesitate or delay to seek help. Minutes are critical. It’s up to you to do all you canto reduce your risk. No surprise — prevention is the best medicine!


Carotid Artery Disease section was last modified: October 31, 2008 - 05:27 pm