HealthWatch:Clearing Carotid Arteries

By , Chelly Boutott, Local 5 News

Published 12/15 2013 11:36AM

Updated 12/25 2013 06:01PM

LOS ANGELES, Cali. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every year, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with blockages in their carotid arteries, which can lead to a dangerous stroke. Now, there's a new, safer way to clear these arteries.

Biff Yeager has been an actor for more than 40 years. It's a career he's passionate about.

"I just like to make people feel, I think," Biff told Ivanhoe.

But when Biff recently found out he had a blockage in his carotid arteries, he had a new role to play-informed patient.

"I knew that if an artery was blocked, you could have brain damage or a stroke," Biff said.

Traditionally, doctors repaired the problem with open surgery or a riskier stenting procedure performed through the groin.

"Doing that particular approach for stenting, carries twice the stroke risk as doing the open operation," Wesley Moore, MD, Professor and Chief Emeritus of the Vascular Surgery Division of Vascular Surgery at UCLA, told Ivanhoe.

Now, with the "silk road" technique, surgeons enter directly through the neck to access the carotid arteries. To prevent pieces of debris from traveling to the brain, they temporarily reverse blood flow.

"So, if there are any bits of debris present, instead of going toward the brain, or into the brain, they go through a circuit external to the body, trapped in a filter," Dr. Moore explained.

A stent is placed to keep the artery open. Then, blood flow resumes to its normal direction.

Biff stayed in the hospital just one night after his procedure, and now he can focus on landing that next part.

The new procedure doesn't require general anesthesia like the traditional, open surgery. In clinical trials, results show the procedure is as safe as the standard operation. There are about 19 centers in the United States participating in the clinical trial to test this new method.

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