Carotid Artery Disease
What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid Artery Disease is a condition in which the two biggest blood vessels taking blood from the heart to the brain (the carotid arteries) become narrowed. This disorder yearly robs 795,000 people of their brain function and causes 1 out of every 6 cardiovascular disease deaths (CDC, 2018). To understand just how common this is, every 40 seconds, a stroke occurs somewhere in the USA and a death due to stroke occurs every 4 minutes. While strokes are caused by multiple different conditions, the most common cause is carotid artery disease, which is responsible for 87% of strokes.
When the carotid arteries function normally, they deliver the largest supply of blood to the brain. If they become narrowed, however, blood flow is significantly blocked in these blood vessels and the brain suffers reductions in the required oxygen & nutrients.
Identifying a Stroke
Without the required oxygen and nutrients, the brain can’t function normally. This can ultimately result in a stroke, which may cause the following:
- New confusion
- Sudden headache
- Difficulty using the muscles (drooping or numbness of part of the face, trouble walking, trouble seeing)
If you think that you or a loved one may be having a stroke, remember that it is important to act FAST! Elapsed time since the symptoms started determines how much of the brain can be saved in stroke treatment.
FAST is also an acronym that serves as a reminder for what to ask if you think someone is suffering from a stroke.
Face: Ask the person to smile. Does their face droop on one side?
Arms: Ask them to raise their arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Ask them to speak a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or different than usual?
Time: Don’t forget that time is of the utmost importance. The clock is ticking if these symptoms are present.
Risk Factors That Contribute to the Likelihood of Developing Carotid Artery Disease
How much blockage of the carotid arteries is too much? There should be no blockage at all, but with the rates of obesity and vascular disease quickly rising in the USA, having blockages of some degree is becoming more common.
Dr. Davis in Houston Can Prevent the Complications of Severe Carotid Artery Disease
Studies indicate that the risk of stroke does not significantly increase until the degree of blockage is greater or equal to 70%. When the obstruction is at this degree, most patients undergo an operation or procedure to open the artery again.
There are two types of treatments that can open the artery. The most time-tested and predictable procedure is called a carotid endarterectomy. This is an operation in which a small incision is made in your neck to isolate the artery. The artery is opened and the plaque removed with the opening in the artery closed with a patch in most patients.
The other procedure is called carotid artery stenting where a metal stent is placed in the blocked portion to force the vessel open. This procedure is usually reserved for patients who are not well enough to undergo an endarterectomy. Both procedures have excellent outcomes and low complication rates. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one developing carotid artery disease, please schedule an appointment so Dr. Davis can discuss your concerns, assess your health, and determine if/when treatment is required.