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.