Carotid Artery Disease

The carotid artery (the major arterial supply to the brain) is a frequent site of both thrombus and embolus formation. Carotid artery disease is a type of occlusive vascular disease in which the carotid arteries in the neck become narrowed by arteriosclerosis or atherosclerotic plaque. Studies have shown that narrowing of the carotid arteries in such a manner increases a person’s risk for stroke. If the narrowing is severe, a procedure may be required to open up the artery.

Neurosurgeons at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (Robert Harbaugh, M.D. and Kevin Cockroft, M.D.) are internationally recognized for their work in the surgical and endovascular treatment of carotid artery disease.


Carotid Endarterectomy

Carotid endarterectomy is the most common surgical procedure performed for stroke prevention. Our neurosurgeons at Penn State Hershey Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have special training and experience in this procedure. The majority of these procedures are performed under regional anesthesia (the area of the operation is made numb with an injection so patients are not uncomfortable). Since they are awake, patients are less likely to suffer side effects to their heart or lungs from the anesthesia, and overall recovery is faster. Most patients will leave the hospital the next day.


Carotid Angioplasty and Stenting (CAS)

Carotid angioplasty is a technique that involves opening a narrow (atherosclerotic) carotid artery from inside the blood vessel using a balloon and a stent (a hollow tube of wire-like mesh). A catheter is introduced into the femoral artery in the groin area through a small (quarter inch) skin incision. The catheter is guided up to the carotid artery in the neck, and a balloon is then passed through the catheter to the area of blockage. The balloon is inflated to open up the blockage. After the blockage has been opened, a stent is placed across the area of narrowing to keep the artery wide open. The procedure is performed while the patient is awake and most patients will go home the next day.