Carotid Artery Disease

When plaque builds up in the carotid arteries – vessels that send blood to your brain – you may develop carotid artery disease. If you’re diagnosed with this condition, ask a UNC Medical Center vascular specialist whether you need treatment to reduce your risk of a stroke. Your care will begin with medications or the least invasive procedure possible to protect your health.

Carotid Angioplasty & Stenting

During carotid angioplasty and stenting, a minimally invasive procedure, a doctor inserts a tiny balloon into a blood vessel in your groin and threads the balloon up to the carotid artery in your neck. There, the balloon inflates and presses plaque against the artery walls so blood can more fully flow through. Then, the doctor places a tiny wire mesh stent at the site of the plaque and leaves it there to keep the artery open.

Expect to remain awake during this treatment. A light sedative will relax you, and local anesthetic will prevent pain at the incision site in your groin. You’ll recover sooner and face a lower risk of complications than after surgery, but you may need to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

Carotid Endarterectomy

Your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy to restore proper blood flow to the brain. A surgeon will make an incision in your neck and insert a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to allow blood to flow around the blocked artery during surgery. Then, the vascular surgeon opens the carotid artery, removes plaque and stitches the artery closed.

You’ll receive either general anesthesia to make you sleep or local anesthesia to prevent pain in your neck during surgery. After the procedure, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

Well-Rounded Care

If you develop carotid artery disease, you might have other cardiovascular conditions, too. That’s why you get access to a multidisciplinary team of UNC Medical Center specialists who work together to ensure you receive the best possible care for all your health needs.

Staying Healthy

After medical treatment, you must maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent plaque from building up again in your arteries. Talk with your doctor about establishing healthy habits such as:

  • Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fats, salt and added sugar
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Properly taking any medications you’re prescribed to control cholesterol or thin your blood

Find support maintaining a healthy lifestyle at UNC Wellness Centers.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find vascular specialists, make an appointment or learn more about vascular care.

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