Nearly 30 years ago, Janine McLean had a stroke. She recovered after surgery. But, at age 81, her physician worried she might have another, thanks to build up of plaque in one of her carotid arteries.
The carotids carry blood from the heart to the brain. If plaque inside one of them breaks off and travels to the brain, it can cause a damaging or deadly stroke. In fact, carotid artery disease causes one-third of all strokes. Surgery to treat the condition is quite invasive and can lead to serious complications for some patients. Treating it with standard stenting techniques carries the risk of stroke during the procedure itself.
To prevent this from happening to Janine, Providence cardiologist John Wiest, M.D. and vascular surgeon Richard Cook, M.D. used a new minimally invasive technique, Trans Carotid Artery Revascularization or “TCAR.”
Connecting a tiny pump to Janine’s artery through a small incision in her neck, the physicians temporarily reversed the flow of blood in that artery to keep any plaque or debris from reaching the brain. They then placed a stent inside the worrisome section of the artery to stabilize the plaque and minimize the chance of a future stroke. The TCAR technology captures any plaque it dislodges to prevent a stroke during the procedure.
“It just typically takes a few minutes to do all that, then the flow is restored and we’re done,” says Dr. Wiest.
Providence Heart Institute is frequently one of the earliest heart centers on the West Coast to adopt new technology like TCAR, an advantage created by its longstanding and donor-supported research program.
And Janine’s experience? “I wasn’t aware that I needed it. It was absolutely painless and much simpler than I thought it was going to be. The whole hospital visit was just 28 hours. Now that it’s done, I feel a greater sense of well-being.”