Iowa’s Todd Lickliter Has Carotid Tear RepairedPosted by jstevrtc on December 9th, 2009
Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter underwent placement of a stent to one of his carotid arteries on Saturday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, according to reports from ESPN and from The Hawk Eye. Lickliter had evidently complained of severe headaches while coaching his Hawkeyes in the CBE Classic in late November, and upon evaluation and testing on Friday, a tear in one of his carotid arteries was found. This led to the decision to access the carotid and place a stent, a small semi-rigid mesh-like tube, into the artery to keep it open and intact. He was released on Tuesday and was told to chill for a week before resuming his coaching duties (probably not in those terms). As if that matters, considering the rest of the above paragraph.
Most folks have heard of “stents” when talking of heart disease, like when a doctor puts a stent in one of the arteries that suppies blood to the heart, so that the blood will keep flowing through it and you won’t have a heart attack. Yeah, I’m talking to you, there — the guy dipping potato chips in lard. Same concept here. The carotid arteries (you have one on each side of your neck, and you probably knew that) help supply blood to a little organ we here at RTC like to call, “the brain,” which we learned in 8th-grade health class as having a great deal of import. Putting a stent in one of them makes sure that blood keeps flowing through that vessel like John Wall through your 2-3 zone, so that you don’t have a “brain attack.” Also known as… a stroke.
From the information available in the various reports about this (including the two above), and after talking with the guys over at Rush The Court’s Vascular Surgery wing — fun group, by the way! — it doesn’t sound like this was a matter of actual flow through the carotid that got repaired, but rather an issue of a tearing of the artery wall itself. If this is the case, what happens is — because your artery walls have many layers in them, like reinforced garden hose — one of the layers begins to weaken and bulge, which can not only disrupt blood flow to the brain (badness!), but can also result in further tearing (extreme freakin’ badness). If it was a matter of true lack of flow through a clogged carotid artery, most likely Lickliter would have had something called a carotid endarterectomy. This involves not only a year of medical school just to learn how to say that word, but also involves cutting open the neck from the outside, cutting the artery from the outside, and pulling out, as I believe Bill Walton once said, “a big tub of goo” from the artery so blood can flow all smooth-like.
If all Lickliter needed was a stent (like that’s no big deal, right?), they would have non-surgically taken a needle and, um…gone through an artery in the (dabs sweat) groin region to feed a wire up to the carotid, put in the stent, and gotten the wire out of there. This looks to have been the case from what we’ve read.
[Ed. note: After typing that last sentence, I relieved my domicile of all tobacco products, snacky cakes, and suspect foods and have stocked up on fruits, veggies, and water. I will henceforth treat my sweet, wonderful arteries like the beautiful vessels they are. Ahhh...sweet, delicious, laminar flow. If hearing about some guy getting a needle to the ol' groin region doesn't make you want to purge the fridge of bad food and start hitting the gym, I don't know what will. Anyway, back to the article...]
Lickliter did the smart thing, meaning he didn’t just pop a couple of aspirin from the medicine cabinet and dismiss his headaches. He went and saw his doctor, and it sounds like the procedure to repair that carotid artery was done pretty emergently. This is because arteries don’t tear without a reason. And, quite often, they don’t really stop tearing until you make them stop. In other words, this could have gotten worse, REALLY quickly.
Thank God it didn’t. Despite our attempts at humor above, we certainly don’t mean to make light of the situation, and obviously we all hope Coach Lickliter comes out of this well. Godspeed, Sir. We’re extremely happy you got checked out when you did.