A carotid endarterectomy is the most common way to restore normal blood flow through the vessels that carry blood to your brain.
A vascular surgeon may recommend you have a carotid endarterectomy if you have:
- A moderate (50-79%) blockage of a carotid artery and are experiencing symptoms such as stroke, mini-stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack).
- A severe (80% or more) blockage even if you have no symptoms.
A carotid endarterectomy is performed in an operating room. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the carotid artery and removes the plaque using a dissecting tool. Removing the plaque is accomplished by widening the passageway, which helps to restore normal blood flow. The artery will be repaired with sutures or a graft. The entire procedure usually takes about two hours. The patient may experience pain near the incision in the neck and some difficulty swallowing during the first few days after surgery. Avoid driving and limit physical activities for a few weeks after surgery. You may go home the same day or stay 1–2 nights after the procedure depending on your medical condition.
- Stroke occurs in 2–3% of patients with no pre-procedure symptoms; in 5–7% of patients with pre-procedure symptoms such as stroke, mini-stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). After the operation you will be asked to move your arms and legs and be examined by nurses and doctors to make sure that you have not had any new stroke symptoms.
- Heart attack
- Nerve damage, affecting your voice box, tongue or back
- Re-narrowing of the repaired artery
- Expect to be in the hospital 1–2 days, longer if complications develop, in which case a stay at a rehabilitation facility may be needed.
- You will have a sore throat and the skin around the incision on your neck will be numb. This will improve over time.
- You will see your vascular surgeon and have a carotid ultrasound to look at the artery. This will be done yearly to make sure the plaque has not accumulated again.
- You may wish to eat smooth, soft foods like soup and yogurt for a while before returning to your normal diet.
- Driving is usually permitted once pain medicine is stopped and you can easily turn your head to check your surroundings on the road and safely merge with traffic.