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What is carotid artery?

Carotid artery is a blood vessel through which blood rich with oxygen and nutrients reaches the brain. Nerve cells in the brain are very power-hungry in terms of oxygen and glucose consumption, and even a slight lack of either of these can cause consequences that range from mild to severe. Prolonged lack of oxygen supply to the brain (a matter of minutes) causes death. Carotid artery has two branches that rung up the neck and supply blood to both the corresponding hemisphere of the brain and the face. Pulse on the neck is checked on the carotid artery and movie vampires like to bite in it.

What can go wrong with carotid artery?

Beside injury or trauma, carotid artery can become blocked. This happens because of development of plaque. Partial blockage of carotid artery is referred to as artery stenosis. This condition leads to decreased flow of blood to the brain and can have consequences such as stroke. This condition, if it has already occurred, is fixed by means of surgical procedure.

Surgical procedure for repair of blocked carotid artery

There are two types of surgical procedures for repair of carotid artery blockage. The first procedure is carotid endarterectomy.

This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. An incision is made in the skin above the artery to expose it. Then a catheter (a small, elastic pipe made of plastic that does not irritate tissue) is placed beside the artery and the blood is re-routed through it so that there is uninterrupted flow of the blood to the brain. The artery is then opened, cleaned up, and stitched. Functioning of both the heart and the brain are closely monitored during the procedure, to ensure prompt response to possible complications.

The other procedure is known as CAS, or carotid angioplasty and stenting. In here, a catheter and a guiding wire are used to lead the second, small catheter to the location of the blockage. This small catheter is equipped with a small balloon that will be placed in the blockage and then blown (of course, sizes and volumes discussed are corresponding to the diameters of the arteries involved) to expand. Once expanded, the balloon will open up the blocked artery. A stent (a thin tube inserted into the artery to hold it open or remove a blockage), if it is used, is placed at the site of the blockage and left in there, while the balloon is removed.

Risks

This procedure is dealing with very sensitive structures and possible risks are serious and include stroke, brain damage, nerve injury and others.

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