Carotid arteries can become blocked by fat and cholesterol build-up as a result of atherosclerosis. Blockage of the internal carotid artery can reduce blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. The patient may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, slurred speech, or weakness, which are all signs of stroke. By removing the fat and cholesterol build-up inside the artery, adequate blood flow is restored, which can help prevent a stroke. Blockages of carotid arteries in the neck are responsible for more than half of all strokes.

X-ray studies using special dyes, called carotid angiograms, can show the degree of blockage of the carotid arteries. Other tests such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) can visualize blockages in the carotid arteries.

Carotid artery stenting is an exciting, investigational technique to re-open blocked carotid arteries. Because carotid stenting is minimally invasive, it provides an excellent treatment option to patients who are high-risk candidates for surgery. The procedure requires only a local anesthetic and a tiny puncture into an artery in the groin area, rather than opening the artery in the neck. The blockage is treated with balloon angioplasty and the placement of a stent — a small, self-expanding metal tube or 'scaffold' that keeps the vessel open, thereby preventing a stroke from occurring in the first place.

MedStar Union Memorial's specialists are currently participating in multiple FDA-approved carotid stenting procedures and have access to the latest stent and brain protection technologies.

While carotid artery stenting is a new procedure at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, we also perform carotid artery surgery (also known as carotid artery endarterectomy). This is a surgical procedure to manually remove fat and cholesterol build-up from inside the carotid artery and restore adequate blood flow to the brain.

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