Carotid Angioplasty

A carotid angioplasty is a procedure used to prevent or mitigate the effects of a patient suffering from a stroke. The procedure involves inserting a balloon into the carotid arteries, located on both sides of the neck, to prevent arterial clogging. Frequently, carotid angioplasties are accompanied with stent insertion to prevent future arterial occlusion.

What is it? 

The carotid arteries are located on both sides of the neck and supply oxygenated blood to your face and brain.  Plaque in the walls of the carotid arteries significantly reduces normal blood flow to the brain, which may cause a stroke.  A carotid angioplasty prevents the formation of blood clots and strokes using a small, inflatable balloon into the artery to widen the artery walls, restoring normal blood flow to the brain.  After it is in place, the balloon will be inflated to push open the narrowing artery.  A stent is often inserted to reinforce the artery, preventing the carotid arteries from narrowing again.  Patients undergo a carotid angioplasty if traditional surgery poses too high of a risk.

What should I do to prepare?

You will have at least one of the following tests before the procedure: ultrasound, MRA, CTA, or Carotid Angiogram. Discuss stopping certain medications with your doctor, and you should not eat or drink anything the night before the procedure. You should arrange for transportation home from the hospital.

What happens during the process?

The doctor will place electrodes on your chest to monitor your heart rate and rhythm during the procedure.  Intravenously administered general anesthesia will ensure sedation throughout the procedure.  Next, the catheter is inserted into your leg, arm, or groin through a small incision, and the surgeon will guide the catheter into your carotid artery to find the blockage using a contrast agent.  When the vascular abnormality is located, the surgeon will also insert the balloon-tipped catheter.  After the balloon is positioned precisely in the carotid artery, the balloon inflates several times to widen the artery.  A stent is then led into the artery through the catheter and positioned to support the arterial walls.  Once the artery is widened, and the stent is in place, the catheter is removed, and the incision site is sutured and cleaned to prevent bleeding.

What are the risks and potential complications?

Common risks and complications to come from this procedure may include an allergic reaction to the dye, blood clots, brain damage, heart attack, kidney failure, seizures, stroke, excessive bleeding or infection, and further blockage of the carotid artery.


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