The Vision Problem that Put a Stop to a Stroke in the Making

By Meredith Whittemore

It was the diagnosis Jackie Purswell didn’t see coming- a severely blocked carotid artery that put him at a high risk for stroke. What was most surprising to Purswell was that he originally went to the doctor for a vision issue.

“I had been having trouble with my vision and had fallen several times. It had gotten so bad, my wife stopped me from driving,” Purswell said.

His Doctor Saw More Than a Vision Problem

Purswell was told his vision issues indicated a more serious problem that didn’t have anything to do with his eyes.

“It’s actually more common than people realize,” said Kousta Foteh, MD, Chief of Vascular Surgery at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital. “The carotid artery supplies blood to the ophthalmic artery. When the carotid artery becomes blocked, it can spray plaque into the ophthalmic artery, causing vision issues. During an exam, the ophthalmologist can see evidence of plaque buildup and will then refer a patient to a vascular surgeon.”

Dr. Foteh discovered Purswell’s carotid artery was 75 percent blocked. According to the American Stroke Association, carotid artery disease is among the top risk factors for a stroke. Other stroke risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

RELATED: Back to Feeling “Healthy and Spry” After Suffering a Carotid Artery Blockage

Reversing His Risk of Stroke

Dr. Foteh said Purswell was a good candidate for transcarotid artery revascularization, or TCAR.

 “TCAR is a minimally invasive procedure where we insert a stent into the artery, allowing for blood flow. At the same time, we utilize a unique and revolutionary filtration system that allows us to reverse the blood flow in the brain,” Dr. Foteh said. “If any plaque were to inadvertently get loosened, it would travel away from the brain and be captured in the filtration unit that otherwise could cause a procedural stroke during stenting. This greatly lowers the risk of a potential stroke compared to conventional carotid stenting.”

The procedure is especially beneficial for patients who aren’t good candidates for open vascular surgery, Dr. Foteh said.

“The TCAR procedure utilizes a smaller incision, putting less stress on the heart. It also requires a shorter hospital stay compared to open vascular surgery,” Dr. Foteh said.

Purswell said he began feeling much better soon after surgery.

“I feel great. I don’t have any more pressure behind my eyes. I’m back to driving, I haven’t fallen again. Overall, it was a good experience.”

Learn more about reducing your stroke risk or about all of the heart and vascular services offered at Memorial Hermann.

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