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Carotid Artery Surgery

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87-year-old John Eads is right back to his routine after having surgery to open a blocked artery.

"We went in early in the morning on the 28th. And about 11 o'clock on the 29th, my wife and daughter picked me up."

UCLA researchers tested a new minimally invasive procedure on John to clear plaque from his carotid artery.

The artery supplies blood to the brain and can lead to a stroke if it's blocked.

Researchers say their new technique may be safer and faster because doctors can put a stent directly into the carotid artery from the neck instead of through the leg.

"We make a very small incision just above the collar bone enough to give us access and control about an inch length of the carotid artery."

During the procedure, the blood is being temporarily re-routed away from the brain to protect it from any plaque dislodging and causing a blockage, and possibly a stroke.

The redirected blood also passes through a filter. Dr. Wesley Moore demonstrated what happens.

Teresa: "So if that filter fills up with any particulate material, you're basically saving that patient from a potential stroke."

Dr. Moore: "We believe so. Yes."

Doctors recommend the procedure for patients like John who are older and have especially clogged arteries.

"I think for an older person this type of operation is not that hard on you."

Tests show John's blocked carotid artery is now wide open.

More than 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed every year with blockages in the carotid arteries. So far, about 40 people have participated in the clinical trial. If the trial is successful, doctors hope to perform the procedure on low risk patients as well.

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