As vascular experts, interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons treat atherosclerosis, “hardening of the arteries,” throughout the body. In some patients, atherosclerosis, specifically in the carotid artery in the neck, can lead to ischemic stroke. Plaque in the carotid artery may result in a stroke by either decreasing blood flow to the brain or by breaking loose and floating into a smaller vessel, depriving a portion of the brain of blood flow. In patients at high risk of having a stroke, the narrowed section of artery may be reopened by a vascular specialist through angioplasty and reinforced with a stent, thereby preventing the stroke from occurring. Vascular stents are typically made of woven, laser-cut or welded metal that permits the device to be compressed onto a catheter and delivered directly into the hardened artery. In addition to diagnosing and treating those at risk for stroke, vascular specialists use their expertise in imaging, angioplasty and stenting to treat those having an acute stroke.
A carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure. Performed by a vascular surgeon, this procedure requires an incision to open and remove the plaque from the artery to restore adequate blood flow to the brain. Carotid endarterectomy is considered a long-lasting procedure. Both carotid stenting and endarterectomy procedures will require a yearly follow-up carotid ultrasound to monitor future plaque build-up for stroke prevention.