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Understanding Carotid Artery Disease

Featuring: Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon Gregory Domer, MD

“Most people are familiar with coronary artery disease,” says vascular and endovascular surgeon Gregory Domer, MD. “Where plaque builds up, limiting the blood flow through those arteries. The same thing happens in the carotid arteries. That’s why it’s important to diagnose and treat.”

Fatty deposits of cholesterol in the arteries, or atherosclerosis, can lead to impeded blood flow and possibly, a heart attack. The same process, when it happens in the carotid arteries in the neck that take oxygenated blood to the front of the brain, can lead to the brain attack known as a stroke.

Narrowing of the carotid artery doesn’t trigger warning symptoms of trouble ahead. It’s when part of the plaque causing the narrowing breaks off, or embolizes, and travels to a smaller blood vessel in the brain that a stroke can occur. The blockage is an immediate shutoff switch to nerve centers with immediate – and potentially devastating – effects.

The good news is that carotid artery disease can be picked up through non-invasive screenings and is rarely the first arterial blockage a specialist finds. When discovered, a plaque can be removed and the carotid artery stented through interventions called carotid endarterectomy and the newer transcarotid artery revascularization or (TCAR). Deborah marked its 100th TCAR in July, as one of the area’s most experienced in the procedure.

The risk factors for carotid artery disease are the same as for coronary artery disease:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of atherosclerosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Older age

While some of the above can’t be controlled, others can be reduced or managed, for better overall heart health and in the case of possibly preventing a stroke, better brain health!

KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Gregory Domer about diagnosing, treating, and living with carotid artery disease.

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