What is it?
The carotid arteries are located on each side of your neck and extend from your aorta in your chest to the base of your skull. These arteries supply blood to your brain. Carotid artery stenting is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a slender, metal-mesh tube, called a stent, which expands inside your carotid artery to increase blood flow in areas blocked by plaque.
How does it work?
During the carotid stenting procedure, a doctor inserts a stent into the carotid artery after performing angioplasty. Angioplasty uses a balloon inflated in the narrowed part of the artery to flatten the plaque and open the artery. The stent holds the artery open by holding back the flattened plaque like scaffolding in a mineshaft.
A doctor guides the catheter to the blockage site in the carotid artery and may insert a small balloon, basket, or filter called an embolic protection device. This device helps to prevent strokes by catching the clots or debris that may break away from the plaque during the procedure.
Reasons for Carotid Stenting
A carotid stent procedure is performed in patients diagnosed with carotid artery disease. Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up and reduces blood flow in your carotid arteries.
What to Expect
A stent procedure is performed in the catheterization laboratory. Carotid stenting usually takes about 1-2 hours and most patients will spend the night in the hospital.
During the procedure, a physician will likely talk with the patient and may instruct to squeeze a small toy or ball so that he or she can monitor brain function. While some physicians may perform the procedure under general anesthesia, in most instances, the procedure is performed while the patient is awake and alert. The patient will not feel the catheters as they move through their arteries because there are no nerve endings inside your arteries.
The doctor may instruct the patient not to lift anything more than about 5 to 10 pounds after returning home to avoid any pressure on the incision. Instructions will include drinking plenty of water to help flush the dye out of the system and to take blood thinning medications. Follow-up examinations will be schedules, usually including carotid ultrasound examinations, to monitor the function of the stent over time.
Restenosis may occur in the first six months following the surgery which is when more blockages appear in the treated area and arteries that have stents can re-close. If restenosis occurs, additional balloon angioplasty or stent procedures may need to be performed.