The carotid arteries are responsible for supplying blood and oxygen to the brain. As plaque develops in the carotid artery, it can become a significant enough blockage to prevent blood flow to the brain and potentially cause a stroke. In addition, the plaque in the carotid artery can cause a stroke by breaking off and traveling to smaller blood vessels in the brain.
For patients without any signs or symptoms of stroke, your vascular surgeon will assess your carotid artery images to determine if the plaque in the carotid artery is significant enough to put you at high risk for stroke. Sometimes, patients may have had a recent stroke or Mini-stroke (TIA) and are found to have high amounts of plaque in the carotid artery. Both of these scenarios are referred to as severe carotid artery disease and usually warrant a carotid procedure to remove plaque and lessen the patient's risk of stroke.
Once your surgeon has determined that you are a candidate for a carotid artery procedure. They will assess your imaging studies, surgical risks, age, and medication list to determine if you are a better candidate for an open surgery (CEA) vs a minimally invasive stenting procedure. CEA is well suited for patients who are at low risk of surgical complications. In addition, vessel anatomy, location of plaque, and the amount of calcium in the artery may make a patient a better candidate for the CEA procedure.