Understanding Atherectomy and Carotid Endarterectomy

The vascular system is the body’s network of blood vessels, which is made up of arteries, veins and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart. Vascular system problems are common. In fact, millions of Americans are diagnosed with vascular disease each year.

Two of the most serious vascular diseases are atherosclerosis and carotid artery disease — both of which are caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.

Atherosclerosis facts

Atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, occurs when plaque buildup causes arteries to narrow, weaken and become less flexible. Eventually, the amount of blood and oxygen delivered to vital organs is greatly reduced.

Atherosclerosis affects large and medium-sized arteries, but the location of plaque buildup varies with each person. Plaque may partially or totally block blood flow through arteries in the following areas:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Brain
  • Pelvis
  • Legs or arms

If left untreated, atherosclerosis can progress into coronary heart disease, angina (chest pain), carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and chronic kidney disease.

What causes atherosclerosis?

The exact cause of the condition isn’t known, but many scientists theorize that plaque begins to form once the inner lining of the artery becomes damaged. Three possible causes of damage to the arterial wall are:

  • Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking

Treating atherosclerosis with atherectomy

The goal of atherectomy is to eliminate the buildup of plaque in the arteries. During the procedure, a vascular surgeon inserts a specialized catheter into a blocked artery to remove a buildup. Atherectomy is typically used to treat blockages where angioplasty and stenting cannot be performed.

Carotid artery disease

This disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the carotid arteries. There are two common carotid arteries — one on each side of the neck. The internal carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain, and the external carotid arteries send oxygen-rich blood to the face, scalp and neck.

Narrowing of the carotid arteries is most often caused by atherosclerosis. Carotid artery disease is similar to coronary artery disease, in that blockages form in the arteries of the heart and can cause a heart attack. In the brain, carotid artery disease can lead to stroke. In fact, this disease causes more than half of all strokes in the United States.

Carotid endarterectomy (CEA): Treatment for carotid artery disease

During a carotid endarterectomy, a vascular surgeon removes plaque that has built up inside the carotid artery. After an incision on the side of the neck is made over the affected carotid artery, the surgeon can remove the plaque so normal blood flow to the brain can resume.

Advanced vascular care and globally recognized research right here at home

Because the signs don’t always show, you may not feel symptoms of a vascular condition before it becomes serious. If problems such as heart attack and stroke, or artery and vein conditions run in your family, come see us today.

At Baton Rouge Vascular Specialty Center, we are deeply committed to getting to the root cause of your vascular issue.

Our team of highly credentialed and experienced vascular surgeons is recognized by their peers for contributing to advancements in vascular care. They are board-certified, fellowship trained physicians with experience in advanced vascular treatments. Most important, they’ve been known by thousands of southern Louisianans for their caring dedication for over 30 years.

Experience what it means to be treated as the unique person you are, and take the first step in improving your quality of life. Call (225) 769-4493 or request an appointment online now.