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Carotid Artery Disease

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Carotid artery disease is when fatty deposits – known as plaque – block the blood vessels that bring blood to the brain and head. If not properly treated, this condition can lead to a stroke

Risk Factors

You may be at risk for carotid artery disease if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

If you have coronary artery disease, you are at an increased risk for stroke or transient ischemic attack, or “mini-stroke” (TIA).

Symptoms

For many people, the first signs of carotid artery disease is suffering a stroke or TIA. The signs and symptoms of stroke or TIA may include sudden onset of:

  • Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding others’ speech
  • Dizziness or trouble keeping balance
  • Numbness or weakness in the limbs or face
  • Severe headache

At the University of Miami Health System, our experts provide minimally invasive treatment to improve blood flow and treat carotid artery disease.


Tests

History and Physical Exam
Your doctor will perform a complete history and physical exam and possibly order blood tests.

Ultrasound
An ultrasound test uses sound waves to assess your blood flow and check blood pressure in your carotid arteries.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
These tests produce detailed images that your doctor can use to look for evidence that a stroke has occurred, or other abnormalities related to carotid artery disease.

Angiogram
A CT angiogram or MRI angiogram of the carotid arteries are scans using contrast injected into an arm vein. They show how and where your blood flows.


Treatments

Smoking Cessation
Your doctor may prescribe a smoking cessation program to help you quit smoking and improve the health of your blood vessels.

Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a heart-healthy diet that includes lots of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, and limited cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium can help reduce the occurrence of complications related to carotid artery disease.

Medications
Some medications, such as statins or beta blockers, can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing your risk for coronary artery disease.

Carotid Endarterectomy
This procedure involves your doctor making a small incision on the front of the neck. He or she will then open the affected carotid artery and remove the plaque that is blocking blood flow. The artery will be stitched close and the incision closed. This minimally invasive treatment is typically performed on an outpatient basis, performed with local anesthesia and light sedation medications, and use only a tiny nick in the skin the size of a pencil tip. Recovery is usually a few hours, or possible one-night hospital stay. Most patients have immediate improvement in their symptoms. Follow up clinic visits are scheduled every few months to make sure symptoms are not recurring.

Open Aortic Aneurysm Repair
For this procedure, your surgeon makes a large incision in your abdomen in order to reach the aorta. They can then place a stent graft inside the aneurysm. If you do not qualify for minimally invasive repair, your doctor may recommend the open procedure. Since most procedures are done minimally invasive and the open procedure requires a lot of skills from the surgeon, we have vast knowledge in this area from years of experience, which should be taken into account when finding a surgeon that fits your needs. 

Carotid Angioplasty With Stenting
Using various cameras to see inside the body, this procedure involves your doctor guiding a small catheter which looks like IV tubing through an artery in to the blocked artery in the neck. Then he or she inflates a balloon to open the blood vessel where it is narrowed or blocked. In some cases, the blocked artery may not stay open with angioplasty alone and a scaffold, called a stent, is needed. These minimally invasive treatments are outpatient, performed with local anesthesia and light sedation medications, and use only a tiny nick in the skin the size of a pencil tip. Recovery is usually a few hours, or possible one-night hospital stay. Most patients have immediate improvement in their symptoms. Follow up clinic visits are scheduled every few months to make sure symptoms are not recurring.


Why Choose UHealth?

Leading-edge imaging care in South Florida. Our doctors are also researchers discovering new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. That means you can get some of today’s most promising advancements through clinical trials. You benefit from the latest developments that are fast-tracked from the lab to the bedside.

Advanced, hard-to-find procedures. Our doctors are committed to caring for every patient. That’s why they offer the latest treatments, including limb salvage, endovascular grafting and thoracic outlet decompression, to improve your blood flow. 

Expert care from highly trained interventional radiologists. Our interventional radiologists and radiology specialists are experts in a variety of minimally invasive procedures — everything from treatments to clear blocked blood vessels to advanced cancer therapies like NanoKnife®.

All the care you need, from one physician. Our vascular surgeons perform a wide range of procedures so you can have the same physician for any vascular care you need as your condition changes. Whether you need a stent replaced or a vein grafted, you can always turn to the doctor you trust.

Experienced doctors, reliable results. UHealth vascular surgeons perform hundreds of stent placements, angiograms and more every year. You can rely on their experience to help you avoid complications and have a positive outcome. 

Questions? We're here to help.

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