A trip to the eye doctor ultimately led Jackie Purswell to a life-saving carotid artery surgery at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.

“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.

When Purswell went to the eye doctor, he was told that his vision issues indicated a more serious problem than he imagined. His primary care physician referred him to vascular surgeon Kousta Foteh, M.D.

“It’s actually more common than people realize,” said Dr. Foteh, chief of Vascular Surgery at Memorial Hermann Northeast. “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.”

Foteh discovered that Purswell’s carotid artery was 75 percent blocked, putting him at high risk for stroke. 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,” 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, 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,” 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,” he said.

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