Back to Feeling “Healthy & Spry” After Suffering a Carotid Artery Blockage

Lake Houston resident Sigrid Didonato loved to smoke, and for years enjoyed a cup of coffee and cigarettes each morning. Though she eventually quit, her years of daily use caught up to her.

What she didn’t know at the time was her history of smoking combined with genetics and other risk factors were putting her in jeopardy of developing carotid artery disease, a condition where plaque builds up in the carotid arteries.  The carotid arteries are located on each side of the neck and carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

“About 15 years ago I began having problems with circulation.  I started to develop ulcers on my legs that wouldn’t heal,” said Didonato.  “It was the first sign that something was wrong.  However, after treatment at a wound care center, the ulcers went away, and I was fine for several years.”

Her Circulation Issues Returned

When Didonato and her family moved to Texas five years ago, she began to experience poor circulation again.  Her legs were swollen, tired and achy.  She was referred to Rajiv Agarwal, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.  Upon the exam, she was diagnosed with two blockages – one in her leg, which was treated by venous ablation of her saphenous vein, and one in her left carotid artery.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, carotid artery disease is a major cause of stroke, which can occur when the plaque that builds up in the carotid arteries blocks blood flow to the brain.

A New Way to Open a Carotid Artery Blockage

After several attempts to open the carotid artery blockage were unsuccessful, Dr. Agarwal consulted  endovascular and vascular surgeon Kousta Foteh, MD, who is affiliated with Memorial Hermann. Dr. Fotehwas offering a new approach for the treatment of carotid artery disease called TCAR.

“Mrs. Didonato had a severe blockage in her carotid artery that put her at a significant risk of having a stroke,” said Dr. Foteh. “Since the traditional treatments proved unsuccessful in her case, TCAR was the best option.  After a thorough evaluation, it was determined she was a candidate for the procedure.”

TCAR stands for TransCarotid Artery Revascularization and uses a FDA-approved neuroprotection device to reduce the risk of stroke during the placement of a stent.  The device temporarily reverses blood flow in the artery during the procedure so that plaque or blood clots that could break off and travel to the brain and cause a stroke are safely rerouted while the transcarotid stent is inserted to open and stabilize the blockage.

TCAR Offers Many Benefits

“Because it’s minimally invasive, this procedure offers many benefits that can include lower risk of surgical complications, less pain and a quicker recovery for the patient,” added Dr. Foteh.

In November 2017, Dr. Foteh performed TCAR on Didonato at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center.  The minimally invasive procedure lasted less than one hour and she recovered in the hospital for a day before going home.

Today, Didonato reports that she “feels great.”

“I am so grateful to Dr. Foteh for educating me about this procedure and knowing it was the right one for my condition,” said Didonato. “While I’m back to feeling healthy and spry, I will continue to follow up with him out here by my home to monitor my condition.”

Learn more about heart and vascular services at Memorial Hermann.

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