Danbury Hospital is the first in western Connecticut to offer a breakthrough, minimally invasive procedure to treat carotid artery disease. TransCarotid Artery Revascularization TCAR is a clinically proven, safe option for those at high risk of complications from traditional open surgery.
Carotid artery disease is serious because it can be difficult to detect and the first symptom is often a stroke. There is also risk of experiencing a stroke during conventional procedures to treat the disease. TCAR reduces the risk of a procedural stroke and also reduces the chance of a future stroke as a result of carotid artery disease.
Carotid artery disease is a form of atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque, in the two main arteries in the neck that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Carotid artery disease is estimated to cause up to one-third of strokes, with 400,000 new diagnoses of the disease made in the United States each year.
TCAR, which is performed through a small incision in the neck, enables the vascular surgeon to use a special device to directly access the carotid artery and place a stent. TCAR is unique because blood flow is temporarily reversed during the procedure, meaning that any pieces of plaque that may detach from the wall of the artery are diverted away from the brain, preventing a stroke from happening. The stent that is placed inside the artery stabilizes the plaque and minimizes the risk of a future stroke.
Prior to TCAR, the main treatment option for severe carotid artery disease was an open surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy (CEA). CEA requires the vascular surgeon to make a large incision in the neck, open the carotid artery to remove the plaque, and then repair the artery.
“Danbury Hospital is advancing the management of carotid artery disease and stroke prevention with TCAR. We are thrilled to bring this safer method for carotid stenting to our patients that are at high risk of complications from CEA,” said Alan Dietzek, MD, RPVI, FACS, Network Medical Director, Vascular Surgery, Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN). “With proven enhanced patient outcomes, including less pain, faster recovery, and a smaller scar than CEA, TCAR aligns with our overall goal to provide the highest quality, most appropriate, tailored care to each and every one of our patients.”
Using the TCAR procedure, Dr. Dietzek was able to provide minimally invasive treatment to Sandra Jellinghaus of Watertown, Connecticut, before she experienced potentially life-threatening symptoms of carotid artery disease.
After an impromptu Life Line mobile clinic screening indicated that Mrs. Jellinghaus had carotid artery disease, her primary care physician referred her to Dr. Dietzek, who confirmed her left carotid artery was 80 percent blocked, which is very severe. Mrs. Jellinghaus, a vibrant 78-year old, who starts each day with meditation, yoga, and an hour of walking, had no symptoms to indicate anything was wrong.
“I wasn’t expecting my diagnosis. I follow a healthy lifestyle, and there’s no family history of carotid artery disease,” said Mrs. Jellinghaus, who was Danbury Hospital’s first TCAR patient. “Although I felt very nervous knowing that I was at an increased risk for stroke, I also felt relieved that my doctors caught it before a more serious symptom occurred.”
Mrs. Jellinghaus was a good candidate for TCAR because she was at higher risk of experiencing complications from CEA due to the anatomy of her arteries and veins.
“When Dr. Dietzek presented me with my options, I was most excited about TCAR. I felt reassured knowing there was a lower risk of a procedural stroke. Dr. Dietzek and everyone who cared for me at Danbury Hospital helped me to feel comfortable and confident that I would do well with the treatment plan.”
Mrs. Jellinghaus left Danbury Hospital less than 24 hours after her TCAR procedure. She went straight to the market to buy ingredients for grape leaves, which she enjoyed later that day with her daughter.
“I have more peace of mind now, especially after I had my last ultrasound, which confirmed that my arteries are unblocked,” said Mrs. Jellinghaus, who after one post-op appointment, will only need to see Dr. Dietzek for a one-year follow up.
TCAR has been approved as an inpatient procedure for select patient populations, based on age, risk factors, and anatomic conditions. If you have carotid artery disease, you should speak with your physician about the best treatment option for you.