You have two main carotid arteries, one on either side of your neck. They’re large arteries because they’re responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood to your brain and head.
As the carotid arteries travel from your neck into your head, they branch off into internal and external carotid arteries. The internal carotid arteries carry blood to your brain, and the external carotid arteries carry blood to your face and scalp.
Carotid artery disease is a condition that develops when these arteries get blocked with a waxy substance called plaque. Plaque buildup inside your carotid arteries restricts blood flow to your head and your brain. If it’s left untreated, it can lead to stroke — the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States.
The good news is that treatment for carotid artery disease is often effective at reducing plaque buildup and minimizing your risk of complications like stroke. At Tinsley Surgical, Ellis A. Tinsley, MD, FACS, FSVS, and our team are here to help you find the right carotid artery disease treatment for you.
Your risk of carotid artery disease
Carotid artery disease rarely shows symptoms in its early stages. The first sign of a problem could be a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke, so it’s important to understand your risk factors and get screened for the condition.
Anyone can develop carotid artery disease, but your risk increases with age. Other factors that make this condition more likely include a history of smoking, high cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure. Having a preexisting condition like obesity, heart disease, or diabetes may also put you at increased risk.
Conservative treatments for carotid artery disease
If you’re diagnosed with carotid artery disease, Dr. Tinsley and our team evaluate the severity of your condition. People with mild to moderate plaque buildup may see significant improvement with lifestyle changes.
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can minimize plaque buildup and improve your overall health. If you’re overweight or obese, achieving a healthy weight can lower your risk of carotid artery disease complications.
If you’re a smoker, quitting can slow the progression of carotid artery disease. If you’re not a smoker, don’t become one..
We may recommend several different medications to help manage carotid artery disease. Medications to lower blood pressure or cholesterol levels may reduce plaque buildup, while blood-thinning medication can help prevent blood clots.
When to consider carotid artery surgery
Conservative treatments can be a good option for people who have mild to moderate carotid artery disease, but if the condition is severe, or you’ve already suffered a TIA, surgery may be your best course of action.
There are two common types of carotid artery surgery: endarterectomy and angioplasty with stenting.
Carotid endarterectomy is the most common type of carotid surgery that Dr. Tinsley and our team perform. You’re put under general anesthesia, and our team makes an incision along the front of your neck to reach your affected arteries.
Then, Dr. Tinsley opens the artery and removes the plaque buildup. Our team closes the artery and the incision with stitches. With the blockages removed, blood flow to your brain is increased, and your risk of TIA and stroke goes down.
This surgery may be recommended if the blockages in your carotid arteries are too difficult to reach with endarterectomy. In an angioplasty, Dr. Tinsley and our team insert a small balloon into your artery through a catheter.
We inflate the balloon to make room inside your artery, then place a wire mesh coil called a stent inside it to hold it open. The procedure helps keep the artery from getting too narrow and causing a TIA or stroke.
Carotid artery disease is a serious condition that significantly increases your risk of stroke, but the right treatment can help you stay healthy. To get a carotid artery screening or learn more about your treatment options, call our team at Tinsley Surgical or request an appointment online.