This procedure is performed to open up the carotid artery (the main arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain) that is narrowed, hardened or blocked by plaque build-up (atherosclerosis), and to structurally support that opening by permanently placing a metal stent within the artery.
A stent is a mesh-like metal cylinder. As in angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into the groin or arm. The catheter is advanced to the carotid artery, a series of x-ray pictures are taken to clearly visualize the portion that is narrowed, and a balloon-tipped catheter is advanced into the narrowed artery. Inside the artery, the balloon is inflated and deflated several times, compressing the plaque against the artery wall and widening the artery so blood flow improves. This balloon-tipped catheter is removed, and a separate balloon-tipped catheter, with a stent attached, is advanced to the area that was just opened. The balloon is inflated, expanding the stent into the inner layer of the artery once the balloon is removed. The stent stays in place, acting as a scaffold to keep the artery open. The inner lining of the artery will then heal around the stent.
X-ray pictures are repeated, and if the stent has been successfully placed, the catheters are removed. Pressure is applied to the puncture site to stop bleeding while the patient rests quietly.
This procedure is performed in the Catheterization Lab or the Interventional Radiology Suite.