Surgical break through is available in Albany -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Surgical break through is available in Albany

September 21, 2007

Albany  --  It's arguably the most important organ in the body. Without it, other organs wouldn't properly function. So when blood flow to the brain is restricted, it's imperative for that flow to be restored and fast. Either by cleaning out the carotid artery, or by opening it up through a stent.

 A Phoebe doctor is the first in the Albany area to perform Carotid Artery stenting and already eight lives have been saved. It's a major procedure, and until recently one that patients who live in Albany, couldn't have it done in town. 

"Until now, we've been sending all these patients to other institutions and it's cumbersome for the patients and for us to have to do that." But now, Dr. Francis Herrbold, a cardiovascular surgeon, is performing carotid artery stenting at Phoebe Putney Hospital. 

The first to perform it here, because of the intense training. "There aren't a lot of people who do carotid stenting, mostly because of complications and because of the training that's involved," said Dr. Herrbold.

The surgery itself doesn't take that long, only about an hour.  But in that short time period, a lifeline is restored. "The carotid artery controls blood flow to the brain and so it's higher priced real estate if you will than say, the leg," said Dr. Herrbold.

That's because one, the leg just isn't as significant in total body function as the brain is, plus surgeons have found alternatives to restoring blood flow to the leg.  But once blood flow is blocked to the brain, intervention is quite often too late. "Once someone's had a stroke, it's very difficult to restore that brain function and to restore that blood flow to the brain."

And that's why any surgical procedure involving blood flow to the brain is high risk.  Once the area is ballooned for stenting, Dr. Herrbold must act fast, because now, the artery is completely blocked. 

But, he can't remove the devices too soon, because the plaque that's been blocking the artery is loose and if it's not removed before the stent is in place, it could move to the brain, causing a stroke.

And while the risks during the surgery are high, the risk of not doing the surgery could be worse. "This patient's stroke risk would be approximately 10-15% per year with no intervention.  Now that he's had an intervention, that stroke risk would drop to single digits," said Dr. Herrbold.

Herrbold's carotid artery stenting is itself still in single digits, but he expects that number to grow quickly.  Especially now that patients can have the support they need right here at home.

Dr. Herrbold has now performed eight carotid artery stentings at Phoebe. The best candidates for carotid artery stenting are patients with multiple medical problems or heart problems, previous neck surgeries and radiation therapy.