What is a carotid endarterectomy?
A carotid endarterectomy is a procedure in
which a surgeon removes a blockage in a carotid artery.
You have two carotid arteries, one on each
side of the neck. These blood vessels bring blood to the
brain and eyes.
A blockage is usually a combination of
cholesterol and calcium, called plaque, which has built up
in your artery. The buildup of plaque can partially or fully
block the flow of blood. When the carotid artery is narrowed
or blocked, blood flow to your brain may be decreased. When
the blood flow to your brain is decreased, you may become
dizzy or faint, experience problems with eyesight in one
eye, or have numbness or weakness in one arm and leg.
When is it used?
A carotid endarterectomy is usually done
when the carotid artery is more than 70% blocked. If the
artery is not treated, you are at risk of having a major
When the blockage is less than 70%, some
alternatives to this procedure include:
take aspirin or other medicines that
thin your blood
choosing not to have treatment,
recognizing the risks of your condition.
You should ask your health care provider
about these choices.
How do I prepare for a carotid
Your health care provider will give you
detailed instructions. They may include a suggestion to eat
a light meal the night before the procedure and to not eat
or drink anything after midnight before the procedure. If
you regularly take any important medicines, your provider
may ask you to take them on the day of surgery with a sip of
What happens during the procedure?
You will be given a general anesthetic or a
regional anesthetic called a neck nerve block. A general
anesthetic will relax your muscles, put you in a deep sleep,
and prevent you from feeling pain during the operation. With
the neck block, you will be awake but will feel no pain.
The surgeon makes a cut (incision) in your
neck and exposes the artery. A cut is made in the artery and
the blockage is removed. The surgeon then repairs the artery
and closes the incision in your neck with stitches.
What happens after the procedure?
At first you will stay in an intensive care
unit or special- care postoperation unit. When your
condition is stable, you will be taken to a regular room.
You may stay in the hospital 1 to 2 days, depending on your
condition. You may need medicine that makes the blood less
likely to clot after the surgery. In a few weeks you may be
able to return to a normal lifestyle.
Because you had plaque in your artery, you
should eat less fat and try to exercise more after you have
recovered from the procedure. Ask your health care provider
what other steps you should take and when you should come
back for a checkup.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
You may no longer have problems with your
sight or feel a weakness or numbness in your arms or legs.
In addition, you may avoid having a major stroke.
What are the risks associated with this
It is possible for nerves in the neck to
be injured, causing weakness of your voice box, speech
function, or tongue muscles.
When should I call my health care
Call your health care provider immediately
You have trouble speaking or moving any
part of your body.
You lose your memory or have vision
You feel weak.
You have difficulty breathing.
You develop a fever.
Call your health care provider during office