Surgery, Stent or Medical Management for Carotid Artery Disease?

Paul DiMuzio, MD, FACS

Paul DiMuzio, MD, FACS

The carotid artery is one of the main thoroughfares of our bodies, carrying oxygen rich blood to our brain which keeps the whole show running. As we age, these arteries can become narrow from a buildup of fat and cholesterol, a condition called carotid artery disease (CAD). CAD is an important, but preventable, cause of stroke.

So, what’s the best course of action? There are three main treatments available now: Surgery to remove the plaque, a stent to open the vessel and prevent clots from moving to the brain, or manage the condition with medication and lifestyle changes, as recently reported in Reader’s Digest.

Paul DiMuzio, MD, FACS, the William M. Measey Professor of Surgery and Director of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, explains the Jefferson Vascular Institute approach to treating carotid artery disease.

“One size never fits all. Each patient is unique, so their individual risk factors, lifestyle habits and circumstances must be taken into account,” said Dr. DiMuzio. “It’s also imperative for surgeons and physicians to keep a close eye on emerging research, which is changing the way we treat this disease.”

Dr. DiMuzio explained that in the 1990s, surgery was shown to reduce the chance of having a stroke in both patients with and without symptoms from carotid artery disease. But medical therapy has advanced so much since that time, more research is needed to see if surgery still bests medical management.

“Controlling risk factors and properly identifying treatments that fit the individual is key to preventing stroke,” said Dr. DiMuzio.

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