• Carotid Artery Disease

    Carotid Artery Disease

    The carotid arteries are two of the four major arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the brain. Blockages in these arteries can limit blood flow to the brain and lead to a stroke. If your carotid arteries are significantly blockec, your doctor may recommend surgery or angioplasty with the placement of stents to open the arteries and restore blood flow to the brain.

  • Heart and Vascular Disease

    Your Care Team During Carotid Endarterectomy

    If treating your blockages in the carotid arteries requires that you undergo a surgical procedure, called a carotid endarterectomy, to remove plaque, your cardiologist will refer you to a vascular surgeon. A vascular surgeon has served a five-year residency in general surgery and has had two additional years of training in vascular surgery.

    What is Cardiovascular Disease?

    Cardiovascular disease refers to a broad range of diseases that cause narrowing of the blood vessels or weaken the artery walls, resulting in disruptions in efficient blood flow. Included under the broad umbrella of cardiovascular disease are coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), renal (kidney) artery disease, heart failure and high blood pressure. While these conditions may affect different parts of the body, they often share the same underlying cause: atherosclerosis (pronounced ath-row-sklee-rosis), or “hardening” of the arteries.

    Diagnosing Carotid Artery Disease

    Physicians have a number of techniques available to them for diagnosing disease in the carotid arteries, which carry blood to your brain. Your doctor will first take your medical history and will then give you a physical exam. He or she may hold a stethoscope over the carotid arteries in your neck to listen for a whooshing sound, called a bruit, which can indicate narrowing of the arteries. Your medical history or discovery of a bruit may prompt your physician to refer you for diagnostic tests.

    Lifestyle Changes for People with Carotid Artery Disease

    Once blood flow has been restored, your work-and that of your care team-is not over. Procedures such as carotid angioplasty and stenting or endarterectomy can address serious blockages in the arteries, but they do not control other risk factors or remove plaque build-up throughout all arteries in the body. That's when the focus of treatment turns from procedures to medication and lifestyle changes.

    Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease

    Carotid artery disease is a gradual process that slowly blocks the artery, and therefore often does not present any warning signs until the artery is almost totally closed. A stroke or a "mini-stroke" (transient ischemic attack) might be your first indicator that your carotid arteries are not healthy.

    Treatment Options for Carotid Artery Disease

    For the last 50 years, a diagnosis of narrowing, or stenosis, in the carotid arteries would most likely result in a recommendation of surgery to prevent stroke. Surgery to remove plaque from the carotid arteries, called a carotid endarterectomy, is still a viable and life-saving procedure that is performed today. However, now more than ever, physicians have latitude to assess the degree of narrowing in the arteries, the age of the patient, and other factors to determine the best course of treatment.

    Causes of Carotid Artery Disease

    As we age, cholesterol and fatty substances build up in our arteries, causing the arteries to narrow and increasing our risk for cardiovascular disease, including both carotid artery disease and coronary artery (heart) disease.
  • Tests and Diagnostics

    Echocardiogram

    An echocardiogram - also called a Doppler, heart ultrasound or “echo,” - is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. Just as a baby in the mother’s uterus can be visualized with ultrasound, pictures of the heart can help doctors evaluate the heart’s structures, including the muscles and valves.
  • Jim Sparacino – Knowing the options for stroke prevention has him singing a new tune.

    While moving band equipment prior to one of his performances, 53-year-old Jim Sparacino began to feel light-headed, a feeling he had become accustomed to over the past few months. A bystander thought Jim was having a heart attack, but his heart was fine. Instead, Jim was suffering from carotid artery disease, which can lead to a stroke. Working with his doctors, Jim explored his treatment options, keeping in mind his need to protect his vocal cords. Read his story and learn which treatment was right for him.