A new surgery to combat strokes

December 26, 2008 3:15:40 PM PST
A procedure to clear out arteries that feed the brain can also be dangerous, causing strokes and even death. But a new surgery is helping protect patients from the threat.

It's a growing procedure to clear out arteries that feed the brain, but it can also be dangerous. Carotid angioplasty and stenting can cause strokes and even death.

Since he was a kid, Charlie Aker's radio has been his link to the rest of the world.

"I've met everything from people here in the states -- all over the place. Doctors to truck drivers," Charlie Akers, Carotid artery disease patient said.

The 58-year-old has his share of stories to tell. He survived a battle with cancer in his tonsils. Then he found out he had carotid artery disease -- the main arteries in his neck were clogged.

"I was about 98 percent included," Akers said.

In the standard procedure to clear the arteries, a catheter is threaded through the groin into the artery. A balloon expands and a stent is left in place.

"One of the concerns, of course, is that when you blow up either a balloon or put a stent in the carotid artery, that particles can break off and go on up into your brain," said Cardiovascular surgeon at Methodist Debakey Heart Center, Dr. Alan L. Lumsden.

W. L. Gore & associates, inc. If particles block blood vessels, it can cause stroke or death. Instead, doctor alan Lumsden performed an experimental surgery on Charlie. Two balloons are placed in carotid arteries. A device reverses blood flow. Blood moves away from the brain to a filter outside of the body where particles are collected.

"You can back flush blood out of the head to wash out anything that you have knocked off." said Dr. Lumsden.

A stent is placed in the artery and blood flow returns to normal. Charlie was in the hospital for less than two days.

'"The next morning I was ready to go home," said Akers.

Over the years, Charlie's seen radio technology evolve, but this advancement may be what keeps him connected.

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