Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana

Carotid Stents

The Carotid Arteries

Both the right and left sides of your neck have blood vessels called carotid (ka-ROT-id) arteries. These arteries carry blood from the heart to the brain. Plaque also can narrow the carotid arteries. When this happens, the condition is called carotid artery disease.

Plaque deposits in the carotid arteries limit blood flow to the brain and put you at risk for stroke. The same factors that raise your risk for CHD also increase your risk for carotid artery disease. 
Stents are used to help keep the carotid arteries fully open after they're widened with angioplasty. How well this treatment works long term still isn't known. Research is ongoing to explore the risks and benefits of carotid artery stenting.

Carotid Artery Angioplasty and Stenting

Doctors use a procedure called angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) to widen the carotid arteries and restore blood flow to the brain. A thin tube with a balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel in your neck to the narrowed or blocked carotid artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to push the plaque outward against the wall of the artery. A stent (a small mesh tube) is then put in the artery to hold the plaque back and keep the artery open.

Carotid Stents

The illustration shows the process of carotid artery stenting. Figure A shows an internal carotid artery that has plaque buildup and reduced blood flow. The inset image shows a cross-section of the narrowed carotid artery. Figure B shows a stent being placed in the carotid artery to hold back plaque and keep the artery open. Figure C shows normal blood flow restored in the stent-widened artery. The inset image shows a cross-section of the stent-widened artery.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)