Physicians at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute evaluate and treat many patients who have carotid artery disease.

Less severe cases

Carotid artery disease in which the narrowing of the carotid artery is mild or moderate and the patient is asymptomatic is most often treated with the following:

  • Lifestyle changes such as increased exercise, a healthy diet and smoking cessation
  • Treatment of existing conditions that may aggravate atherosclerosis, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Medications for maintaining blood flow, such as antiplatelet drugs, that reduce the ability of the blood to clot

More severe cases

In patients with significant narrowing of the carotid artery and symptoms, a more aggressive treatment may be recommended such as:

  • Carotid endarterectomy: This is the traditional, open surgery method of treating carotid artery disease. During the procedure, which is performed under local or general anesthesia, surgeons clamp the diseased carotid artery to stop blood from flowing through it, make an incision into the blocked section of the artery, and remove the plaque deposit. The surgeon may also widen the artery using a synthetic patch or the patient’s vein. Patients can usually go home the following day.
  • Carotid artery angioplasty with stenting (CAS): Our physicians have pioneered this minimally invasive procedure. A very small flexible tube, or catheter, is advanced from a blood vessel in the groin to the carotid arteries. Once the catheter is in place, a balloon may be inflated to open the artery and a stent is placed. A stent is a cylinder-like tube made of thin metal-mesh framework used to hold the artery open. An apparatus called an embolic protection device may be used while the stent is delivered into position. The device is a filter, like a small basket, that is attached on a guide wire to catch debris that may break off during the procedure.