Carotid Endarterectomy

A carotid endarterectomy removes plaque (fat and cholesterol) buildup from inside your carotid artery, improving blood flow to your brain. This can help prevent another stroke in someone who’s already had one. Even with treatment, you’ll still need to improve your diet, start exercising and reduce your stress level to prevent future plaque buildup.

A carotid endarterectomy is the surgical removal of plaque (fat and cholesterol buildup) from inside your carotid artery, which supplies blood to your brain and your face. There’s one carotid artery on either side of your neck. Blood flow inside your carotid arteries can slow down or stop when plaque collects in your artery walls. If enough blood can’t reach your brain, you can have a stroke.

If you have a stroke, it’s important to get to an emergency room to get prompt medical treatment within three to six hours.

Your doctor may recommend a carotid endarterectomy if the patients have a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a mild stroke due to significant carotid artery disease, and have severe narrowing or blockage (usually at least 80%) in your carotid artery but have not had symptoms related to this disease.

If a carotid endarterectomy surgery isn’t the right treatment for you, your provider may want to check your carotid artery once a year. You may need to improve your diet to bring your cholesterol level down and start taking blood thinners like aspirin or clopidogrel to prevent a stroke. Your provider could also perform an angioplasty (which pushes plaque against your carotid artery walls for better blood flow) and put in a stent (mesh tube) to keep your carotid artery open.

A carotid endarterectomy clears plaque from your carotid artery so you can get better blood flow to your brain. Carotid endarterectomy is the most commonly performed surgical treatment for carotid artery disease.

In many instances now, however, your healthcare provider may get this information from either a CT angiography or MR angiography. These are noninvasive methods to obtain information about your carotid arteries and your brain, and these can be performed without risk of stroke.

A carotid endarterectomy normally takes approximately two hours.

Your healthcare provider will give you general anesthesia (like being asleep) or regional anesthesia, which means you’re awake but the area to be operated on is numbed. If you get regional anesthesia, you’ll also receive medicine to help you relax.

Most people stay overnight in the hospital to watch for problems after their procedure.

You may have a temporary drain in your neck to remove fluid where your provider made an incision. This drain will usually only stay in for one day.