Carotid Artery Disease Treatment Device Decreases Stroke Risk

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
Carotid Artery Disease Treatment Device Decreases Stroke Risk

In early February Michael Gallagher of St. Clair Shores was one of the first in Michigan to undergo minimally invasive treatment of carotid artery disease with a new, leading-edge stenting system at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe.

"I'd wake up in the morning and couldn't see out of my right eye. That definitely scares the heck out of you," explains stroke survivor Gallagher.

Gallagher, 57, had a stroke in 1997 and about six years later he had to undergo surgeries to remove fatty material, also known as plaque, from both his right and left carotid arteries. This procedure is called a carotid endarterectomy.

The carotid arteries are two large vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Decreased blood flow increases the likelihood of a stroke - the third leading cause of death in the United States.

So with Gallagher's history of stroke and carotid artery disease, he was alarmed when he woke up with partial vision loss. He was also troubled by poor circulation in his legs and feet. After consulting with his family physician he was referred to Francisco Rodriguez, M.D., vascular surgeon with Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe. Dr. Rodriguez and his team suspected another narrowing of Gallagher's carotid artery.

An angiogram confirmed their suspicion. Carotid angiograms are images of inside the artery. The images revealed a critical narrowing of Michael's right carotid artery. Because of his medical history, it was decided to perform carotid artery stenting with a new device called the flow reversal system.


"Along with medications and surgery, carotid artery stenting is a promising option for treating carotid artery disease," says Dr. Rodriguez, "For some patients surgery may be risky, and this includes cases like Michael's because he already had carotid surgeries."

Carotid artery stenting involves the insertion of a very small hollow tube, or catheter, into a blood vessel in the groin. The tube is threaded to the narrowed carotid artery. Once the catheter is in place, a balloon may be inflated to open the artery and a stent is placed. The metal stent is a wire-mesh cylinder that keeps the artery from re-narrowing after it has been opened.

Stenting has many advantages:

* minimally invasive procedure
* local anesthesia
* shorter procedure
* less discomfort
* shorter recovery

All stenting procedures carry a risk of stroke. This can occur if a piece or pieces of fatty deposits break off and flows to the brain and causes a blockage. The blockage stops blood flow and causes a stroke. To minimize this risk, stenting systems have a filter to catch any deposits that may break off during the procedure.

To further minimize stroke risk, a new device called the GORE Flow Reversal System was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2009.

"This unique stenting system has been used in Europe for years. Unlike other systems, it reverses blood flow away from the brain while manipulation is done, greatly reducing the risk of fatty pieces reaching the brain and causing a stroke. Those particles are removed by flow reversal out of the body," explains Dr. Rodriguez.

Gallagher's procedure with the new system took less than an hour. Dr. Rodriguez was pleased with the results. He recalls his patient's desire to go home not long after the stenting. He stayed in the hospital overnight for observation and was released the next day. A retired Detroit Parks and Recreation worker, Gallagher says, "I'm thankful for Dr. Rodriguez's care and I'm feeling good today."