When 71-year-old Terry Thompson underwent surgery for his prostate cancer in 2008, it was expected his health would improve.
But in the months that followed, more health problems fell upon him — for one, he started having seizures.
“My legs would get rubbery and I’d fall down,” the Bonney Lake resident said.
Time passed, and the seizures continued. Thompson retired early from his job at a construction company because he was worried about his safety.
“I was on ladders a lot and I didn’t think I should be on ladders of if I was having seizures,” he said.
I was on ladders and stuff a lot and I didn’t think I should be on ladders of if I was having seizures.
Terry Thompson, patient
Eventually, Thompson went to see another doctor, and he discovered that his right carotid artery, a major artery located at the front of his neck, was completely blocked. His left carotid artery was on its way there. He was in need of surgery to remove the blockage.
When it comes to surgeries removing blockages to carotid arteries, there are several options available. But most of them pose high risks for stroke. As plaque is removed from the artery, it can dislodge into the bloodstream, which carries it toward the brain and can cause stroke.
But as of this year, a safer surgery has arrived at the Pulse Heart Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. Called the TransCarotid Artery Revascularization, or TCAR for short, the surgery treats blockages in the carotid artery by reversing blood flow the during the procedure. The blood then runs through a filter that catches any debris, preventing it from going toward the brain.
Not only does the surgery have a decreased stroke risk, it takes less time and is less invasive than alternative procedures, using a smaller incision in the neck, said vascular surgeon Dr. Nick Garcia.
“The recovery will be individual per patient … but it will be a smaller incision,” Garcia said.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup is the second hospital in the state to conduct the TCAR surgery.
Garcia and fellow vascular surgeon Dr. Chatt Johnson first brought the procedure to Washington state this year after learning about its success at a conference. They are currently the only two doctors to carry out the procedure at Good Sam. Good Sam is the second hospital in the state to conduct the procedure, after Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, and the first in the South Sound. Procedures started in August.
Johnson said it was a little nerve wracking to bring the procedure to the area, but that it had the potential to help many people.
“(TCAR) has a significantly lower risk than (other) interventions. That’s why Nick and I wanted to bring it to the community,” Johnson said.
Those who qualify for the procedure include patients who are high risk for other procedures, patients who have more than 50 percent carotid artery blockage with stroke symptoms and patients who have more than 80 percent carotid artery blockage with no stroke symptoms.
Forty percent of strokes in the United States are caused by carotid disease.
With carotid disease causing 40 percent of strokes in the United States, the new surgery is a milestone. One day, it could be the most-used surgery to remove blockages, according to Johnson. For now, only 16 patients have been treated with this surgery at Good Sam so far.
Thompson was one of the first qualified candidates who was introduced to the procedure last spring, when he met Johnson. Thompson said he wasn’t nervous about TCAR, but was immediately intrigued.
“He told me about this procedure and I was really curious,” Thompson said. “I said, ‘Wow, that sounds great. Yeah, I’d really be interested.’”
Thompson received his surgery on Aug. 2. He was able to return home the next day.
I felt fine and I was having little seizures but they felt a little bit different. They didn’t feel like the full blown ones i used to get. Now, I don’t believe I’ve had one in three or four weeks. I hardly worry about it anymore.
Terry Thompson, patient
“I felt fine and I was having little seizures but they felt a little bit different. They didn’t feel like the full blown ones I used to get,” Thompson said. “Now, I don’t believe I’ve had one in three or four weeks. I hardly worry about it anymore.”
For others in the same boat as him, Thompson said he recommends looking into the surgery and thanks the doctors he worked with.
“I feel great,” he said.