by Ricker Polsdorfer MD
Atherosclerosis is hardening of a blood vessel from a buildup of plaque. Plaque is made of fatty deposits, cholesterol, and calcium. It builds on the inside lining of arteries. This causes the artery to narrow and harden. As plaque builds up, it can slow and even stop blood flow.
Endarterectomy is a surgery to remove this build-up and improve blood flow. Surgery is most often performed on:
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done to remove the build-up of deposits and improve blood flow. After the surgery, the symptoms of reduced blood flow, such as stroke, digestive problems, and leg cramps should improve.
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have endarterectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Your risk of complications may also be increased if you have plaque build-up in other vessels.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Before the surgery, your doctor will:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
In addition, you may be instructed to:
You may have:
Description of the Procedure
Incisions will be made over the diseased part of the artery. The location will depend on the artery that is being unblocked.
In the abdomen and legs, the doctor will clamp the artery above the obstruction during the repair. The lower half of the body can go without blood supply during the time it takes to do the surgery. If surgery is done on the neck, the blood around the surgical site may first be rerouted. This will keep blood going to the brain.
The inside of the artery will be cleaned out. Care will be taken not to have small fragments of the deposits break off and flow downstream, causing stroke or arterial occlusion. After the artery is cleaned out, the artery and the skin will be closed with sutures or staples.
How Long Will It Take?
Several hours, depending on the severity of the disease
How Much Will It Hurt?
After surgery, there will be pain from the incisions. Ask your doctor about medicine to help reduce discomfort.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is one day to one week. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications occur.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Atherosclerosis endarterectomy. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
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Accessed May 6, 2013.
Endarterectomy. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: https://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/endarterectomy.aspx. Updated February 2011. Accessed May 6, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.