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Like most patients, you probably feel a little nervous about undergoing a carotid stent procedure. Learning more about the procedure and how long it will take to perform should ease your mind. The idea of having a stent placed in your carotid artery may sound scary, but it requires a fairly simple process that specialists do daily.

The Basics of Your Carotid Stent Procedure

If your doctor determines that your carotid artery has become too narrow because of plaque buildup, he or she will likely recommend performing a carotid stent procedure that keeps the artery open.

The carotid stent procedure involves implanting a stent into your carotid artery, which runs along the front of your neck. The minimally invasive procedure improves blood flow to your brain and helps prevent strokes and aneurysms that can happen when plaques and blood clots become dislodged and enter the brain.

What Your Surgeon Does During a Carotid Stent Procedure

Before your carotid stent procedure, an anesthesiologist will give you a local anesthetic to prevent pain at the incision site. You may also receive medications to help you stay relaxed during the surgery. Some patients may receive general anesthesia that keeps them unconscious during the procedure, but most carotid stent procedures can be done under local anesthesia.

Your surgeon will then make a small incision in your femoral artery. The femoral artery is located at the top of your leg. Your specialist will then insert a small tube, called a sheath, into your artery. The sheath keeps the incision site open so your surgeon can work without resistance.

A catheter is then inserted through the sheath. Your surgeon will carefully thread the catheter up to your carotid artery in your neck. This may seem like a long journey through your body, but your surgeon will have a lot of experience and will use X-rays and dye to guide the catheter to its destination. Assuming that you choose a specialist who does this type of work often, you shouldn’t have to worry that your arteries will get damaged during this stage of the process.

Once the catheter reaches your carotid artery, your neurosurgeon will inject a contrast material to get a more detailed view of the artery. The contrast material is especially important since your carotid artery has narrowed.

To avoid any plaque being knocked loose from your carotid artery, your neurosurgeon will place an embolic protection device (an umbrella-shaped filter) just beyond where he or she plans to insert your stent. The filter will catch any plaque that gets released during your procedure.

Before your neurosurgeon can insert the stent, he or she needs to expand the narrowed carotid artery. This is done by inflating a tiny balloon inside your artery.

Now that the artery has been widened, the stent will be inserted. The stent is a small mesh tube designed to keep your carotid artery open. You can think of it as scaffolding that holds your artery in a healthier position.

Now that your carotid stent has been inserted, your surgeon will remove the filter, balloon, catheter and sheath. Any bleeding at the incision site will be controlled by your medical team by applying pressure to the area for several minutes. Once the bleeding slows, you’ll get a bandage that helps the incision heal.

How Long the Carotid Stent Procedure Takes

Considering how many steps are involved in carotid stent procedures, you might expect the procedure to take a long time. In reality, most carotid stent procedures take about 30 minutes to perform. In some cases, surgeons may need two hours or more to finish the task. The procedure rarely takes longer than two hours unless your medical team encounters unexpected difficulties during the procedure, which is rare.

Factors That Can Affect Your Procedure’s Length

Although specialists can usually finish carotid stent procedures in about half an hour, they may encounter situations that affect the length of your procedure.

Despite using filters to prevent plaque and blood clots from getting dislodged during the procedure, this risk can occur in a small percentage of patients. If this happens, then the clots could travel to your brain. If you show signs of having a stroke, then your medical team will stop performing the stent procedure to address your immediate health. This factor can add an unknown amount of time to your procedure.

Narrow arteries can also force neurosurgeons to take more time during your carotid stent procedure. The narrower your arteries are, the more time your neurosurgeon needs to thread the catheter to your carotid artery. Running a catheter through your arteries doesn’t cause any pain (your arteries don’t have nerve endings that can perceive pain), but your neurosurgeon does not want to risk damaging you during the procedure.

Carotid artery procedures improve blood flow and lower your risk of having strokes. For most people, the procedure only takes anywhere from half an hour to two hours to finish. Regardless, you won’t have to spend much time on the operating table. You will soon return to your hospital room, where you will spend the night recovering. Most patients are discharged within a day or two of the procedure.

cerebrovascular treatments