Carotid Artery Disease (cont.)

What Medical Procedures Treat Carotid Artery Disease?

If there is severe narrowing or blockage in the carotid artery, a procedure can be done to open the artery. This will increase blood flow to the brain to prevent future stroke. Your doctor may suggest either of the following procedures:

  • Carotid endarterectomy (CEA). This has been the commonly performed procedure for patients who have carotid atherosclerosis and TIAs or mild strokes. While you're under general anesthesia, an incision is made in the neck at the location of the blockage. The surgeon isolates the artery and surgically removes the plaque and diseased portions of the artery. Then, the artery is sewn back together to allow improved blood flow to the brain. The risks and benefits of CEA depend on your age, the degree of blockage, and whether you've had a stroke or TIA.
  • Carotid artery stenting (CAS). Carotid artery stenting (CAS) is a newer treatment option. It's less invasive than carotid endarterectomy and is performed in a catheterization laboratory. With CAS, a small puncture is made in the groin. A specially designed catheter is threaded to the area of narrowing in the carotid artery. Once in place, a small balloon tip is inflated for a few seconds to open the artery. Then, a stent is placed in the artery and expanded to hold the artery open. A stent is a small stainless steel mesh tube that acts as a scaffold to provide support inside your artery. The stent stays in place permanently. CAS is still a new procedure and there is significant controversy as to how well it prevents strokes caused by carotid artery disease.

WebMD Medical Reference


American Heart Association: “Carotid Artery Stenosis.”

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: “Carotid Ultrasound.”

JAMA: “Guarding Against Stroke – What You Should Know About Carotid Artery Disease.”

National Cholesterol Education Program: “High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Know.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Questions and Answers about Carotid Endarterectomy.”

Reviewed by Robert J Bryg, MD on March 07, 2009

Last Editorial Review: 3/7/2009

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