Hospital News

Carotid artery stenting now offered ‘closer to home’ at WMHS


Dr. John Pappas, center, and members of the Interventional Radiology team with two of the first carotid artery stenting patients, John Rafferty, on his left, and Dick Meyers, on his right.

A new procedure at UPMC Western Maryland is allowing patients with carotid artery disease to stay close to home for quality care. Under the direction of Dr. John Pappas, the Interventional Radiology Department atUPMC Western Maryland is now offering carotid artery stenting, a procedure that opens the carotid arteries to restore blood flow to the brain. Carotid arteries are located on each side of the neck and are the main arteries supplying blood to the brain. Like arteries in the heart, the carotid arteries can become clogged with plaque which can reduce or block blood flow to the brain. Stenting helps keep the artery open and decreases the chance of it narrowing or closing. Stenting may be used when a carotid endarterectomy (the traditional surgery) isn’t possible or is too risky.

“In the old days, almost all patients with a significant narrowing of the carotid artery had an incision made in their neck and the plaque was taken out,” Dr. Pappas said. “As technology has changed over the last 10-15 years, small catheters and stents have been developed that we can thread through the artery in the groin or arm up to the carotid artery in the neck, which would preclude that patient from having an open endaretectory or a relatively large incision in the neck.”

Dr. Pappas has performed this procedure for years and we are delighted to introduce this service at UPMC Western Maryland. Advances in technology have optimized the procedure and have improved outcomes. “There are new devices like a filtration system which captures plaque coming off the narrowed segment while deploying the stent,” Dr. Pappas said. “These particles would otherwise go to the brain and cause a stroke. The device looks like a tiny umbrella with holes in it that will allow blood to pass through but are small enough to catch the plaque. All of this new technology has really changed the face of carotid stenting. It’s made it safer and reduced the risk of stroke associated with the procedure,” he added.

The stenting procedure is just another tool in a nationwide battle against carotid artery disease. “There are over 800,000 strokes in the United States each year, making it the fifth largest cause of death and the leading cause of disabilities,” Dr. Pappas said. “A lot of strokes originate from particles in the arteries of the neck and heart as well as narrowing of the carotid arteries. These particles can break loose and head right to the brain, causing a stroke. By opening up the arteries and preventing particles that can go to the brain, we can minimize the risk of stroke and do our part in allowing people to lead healthier, happier lives.”

The carotid stenting program launched in April usually only requires a one-night stay in the hospital and a two-millimeter incision is all that is made.

“All patients who come to Western Maryland Health System who undergo carotid artery stenting have a multidisciplinary team involved with their care including a neurologist, Dr. Mark Nelson and his cardiothoracic team, and an Interventional Radiologist. We are excited to bring the carotid artery stenting procedure closer to home at WMHS.”

For more information you may contact the Interventional Radiology department at 240-964-3735.