Every year, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with blockages in their carotid arteries, which can lead to a dangerous stroke. Now, there’s a new, safer way to clear these arteries.

Biff Yeager has been an actor for more than 40 years. It’s a career he’s passionate about.

“I just like to make people feel, I think,” Biff told Ivanhoe.

But when Biff recently found out he had a blockage in his carotid arteries, he had a new role to play—informed patient.

“I knew that if an artery was blocked, you could have brain damage or a stroke,” Biff said.

Traditionally, doctors repaired the problem with open surgery or a riskier stenting procedure performed through the groin.

“Doing that particular approach for stenting, carries twice the stroke risk as doing the open operation,” Wesley Moore, MD, Professor and Chief Emeritus of the Vascular Surgery Division of Vascular Surgery at UCLA, told Ivanhoe.

Now, with the “silk road” technique, surgeons enter directly through the neck to access the carotid arteries. To prevent pieces of debris from traveling to the brain, they temporarily reverse blood flow.

“So, if there are any bits of debris present, instead of going toward the brain, or into the brain, they go through a circuit external to the body, trapped in a filter,” Dr. Moore explained.

A stent is placed to keep the artery open. Then, blood flow resumes to its normal direction.

Biff stayed in the hospital just one night after his procedure, and now he can focus on landing that next part.

The new procedure doesn’t require general anesthesia like the traditional, open surgery. In clinical trials, results show the procedure is as safe as the standard operation. There are about 19 centers in the United States participating in the clinical trial to test this new method.


BACKGROUND: Carotid artery disease is generally defined as the narrowing of the carotid arteries. This happens when cholesterol deposits and fatty substances, known as plaque, build-up in the arteries causing a narrow pathway. A carotid artery occlusion is when there is a complete blockage of the artery, which may put the patient at risk of a stroke. These arteries are two large blood vessels that supply the oxygenated blood to the front of the brain. This part of the brain controls motor functions, thinking, your personality, and your speech. If you are to place your fingers on each side of your neck below the jaw line, you can feel the pulse in the carotid arteries. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/carotid-artery-disease-causes-symptoms-tests-and-treatment)


SYMPTOMS: Patients are usually unaware they have carotid artery disease until they have a stroke. Signs that you may have carotid artery disease include:

·         Dizziness or loss of balance

·         Trouble speaking and understanding

·         Severe headaches with an unknown cause

·         Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·         Numbness or weakness in face or limbs (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/carotid-artery-disease/DS01030/DSECTION=symptoms)


SILK ROAD PROCEDURE: This new technique was created to protect the brain from stroke risk during carotid artery stenting. It allows doctors to deliver a stent directly from the neck. This is intended to avoid complications associated with starting from the femoral artery in the groin, which is typically used in carotid artery stenting procedures. To provide protection for the patient’s brain during the entire procedure, the Silk Road system temporarily reverses blood flow in order to move any debris away from the brain. A worldwide clinical trial called ROADSTER is now underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Silk Road system in patients who are at high surgical risk and have either symptomatic or asymptomatic carotid artery disease.  If you have carotid artery disease and your physician has told you that you are at high risk for surgical treatment (carotid endarterectomy), you may be eligible to participate in the ROADSTER trial. Several factors may increase your risk of surgery, including age and other medical conditions you may suffer from. (Source: http://www.silkroadmedical.com/silkroad-procedure/what-it-is/)

Wesley Moore, MD, Professor and Chief Emeritus of the Vascular Surgery Division of Vascular Surgery at UCLA, talks about a new procedure for carotid arteries.

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