Each year, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with carotid artery disease. If left unchecked, it can lead to stroke because tiny pieces of plaque break away and flow to the brain. Now, vascular surgeons are using a minimally invasive procedure to stent the carotid artery and prevent strokes: all done while the patient is still awake.
Strokes run in Frank Leuzzi’s family, so when doctors discovered a 90 percent blockage in his left carotid artery, he became a clinical trial patient for TransCarotid Artery Revascularization or ‘TCAR,’ for short.
“We do it completely under local. The patient is completely awake and we put the sheath directly into the carotid right through there on either side.” Paul DiMuzio, MD, FACS, William M. Measey Professor of Surgery, Director, Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital said.
This groundbreaking procedure eliminates the need to go through the groin. Instead, surgeons use a small clavicle incision to implant the stent and open up blood flow.
“It’s still technically demanding. We have to be very careful not to cause any dislodging of the plaque. The way it protects the brain while we’re doing the stents is called flow reversal,” Dr. DiMuzio explained.
The stent is deployed and for patients like Frank, who lost his father to a stroke, it’s a quick lifesaving procedure. He was awake during the whole surgery and he recovered very quickly.
“This new procedure within a week, week and a half; he was totally back to normal. He never complained of being in pain and didn’t even take Tylenol. You feel better so much faster. I see how my dad did and it’s wonderful.” Frank’s Daughter, Marianne Leuzzi Rossini said.
The FDA approved TCAR last year after testing at 30 centers around the country. It’s important to know that signs of a stroke include a change in vision or speech and weakness on one side of the body. It typically occurs in older adults and strokes do run in the family.