If you have been diagnosed with carotid artery disease – a build-up of a fatty substance in the arteries that supply your brain with oxygen-rich blood – your treating physician will evaluate the severity of any blockages in the arteries and recommend medication and lifestyle changes, and when necessary, either a minimally invasive procedure (carotid angioplasty and stenting) or surgery (carotid endarterectomy) to reopen a blocked artery.
If treating your blockages in the carotid arteries requires that you undergo carotid angioplasty and stenting, you will be referred to a doctor who specializes in catheter-based therapies such as an interventional cardiologist, interventional radiologist or interventional vascular surgeon.
An interventional cardiologist is a cardiologist with one to two years of additional education and training in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease as well as congenital (present at birth) and structural heart conditions through catheter-based procedures. An interventional neuroradiologist is a radiologist with specialized training in imaging techniques for the brain and spine.
Before, during, and after your procedure, your interventional cardiologist and interventional neuroradiologist will be assisted by a care team, including:
An anesthesiologist. An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor trained to administer the drugs that will take you “under” and block any feeling of pain or unpleasant sensation. Your anesthesiologist is involved in your care before, during and after your procedure. He or she may do a medical evaluation before your procedure to determine an anesthesia plan tailored for you. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist oversees life support and pain control. If time allows before the procedure, you should discuss the anesthetic plan, as well as alternatives, risks and benefits of the chosen anesthetic techniques with the anesthesiologist.
Cath lab nurses. These nurses are closely involved in your care from the time you arrive at the cath lab. During the procedure, cath lab nurses assist the interventional cardiologist and monitor your condition to identify changes that may need immediate attention.
Physical therapists/occupational therapists/rehab nurses. While you are in the hospital and after you are discharged, these medical professionals work with you to help you build your strength and restore function.
Rehabilitation team. A team of healthcare professionals, including nurses, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians and nutritionists, counselors and others, will provide education and coaching to speed your rehabilitation. During rehab, the team will support you as you learn and adopt heart-healthy behaviors, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress.
Your cardiologist or neurologist will continue to be closely involved with your case while you are under the care of the interventional cardiologist. Those physicians, in turn, should also provide reports and updates to your primary care physician in order to ensure coordination of your care.
If treatment followed a stroke, this can be challenging time for the person who suffered the stroke and friends and loved ones who are acting as caregivers. Read SecondsCount Stroke Caregiver Tips for suggestions or getting organized, saving time, and helping the person you love and yourself through this difficult time.