YOUR HEALTH: Early warning signs to prevent a stroke

PHILADELPHIA – Each year, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with carotid artery disease.

If left unchecked, it can lead to stroke because tiny pieces of plaque break away and flow to the brain.

Strokes run in Frank Leuzzi's family, so when doctors discovered a 90 percent blockage in his left carotid artery, he became a clinical trial patient for Trans-carotid Artery Revascularization or T-CAR for short.

"We do it completely under local, the patient is completely awake," explained Dr. Paul DiMuzio from Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

"We put the sheath directly into the carotid right through there on either side."

This groundbreaking procedure eliminates the need to go through the groin.
Instead, surgeons use a small clavicle incision to implant the stent and open up blood flow.

"It's still technically demanding," said Dr. DiMuzio.   "We have to be very careful not to cause any dislodging of the plaque.  But the way it protects the brain while we're doing the stent is called flow reversal."

The stent is deployed and for patients like Frank, who lost his father to a stroke, it's a quick lifesaving procedure.   He was awake during the whole surgery and he recovered very quickly.

"This new procedure, within a week, week and a half, he was totally back to normal," his daughter Marianne Leuzzi remembered.

"He never complained of being in pain, didn't even take Tylenol.  You feel better so much faster."

"I see how my dad did and it's wonderful."

The FDA approved T-CAR last year after testing at 30 centers around the country.

It's important to know that signs of a stroke include a change in vision or speech and weakness on one side of the body.   It typically occurs in older adults and strokes do run in the family.

NEW OUTLOOK: The TCAR is a small incision made above the collar bone to expose the common carotid artery. There is then a soft, flexible sheath that is tucked into the carotid artery and connected to a system that will turn the flow of blood away from the brain to protect against plaque that may come loose during the procedure. The blood is filtered and returned through a second sheath placed in the femoral vein in the patient`s thigh. Because the flow reversal method does not rely on a distally placed filter to capture emboli before they reach the brain, it collects both small and large debris. This is a less invasive endovascular technique to treat blockage in the artery caused by stroke   (Source: http://silkroadmed.com/the-tcar-procedure/ )

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.