Carotid Artery Endarterectomy
by Amy Scholten, MPH
A carotid artery endarterectomy is surgery to remove fatty buildup (plaque) from this artery. The carotid artery carries blood through the neck to the brain. Plaque buildup can slow and stop blood from flowing through the artery.
Reasons for Procedure
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may talk to you about:
The doctor will give:
Description of the Procedure
An incision will be made in the skin along the side of the neck. The incision will run from behind the ear to above the breastbone. Clamps will be placed above and below the plaque on the carotid artery. Sometimes, a temporary bypass tube is used. The tube will maintain blood flow around the area that is being worked on.
The artery will be opened and cleaned of plaque. The artery will then be sewn back together. The clamps, and bypass tube, if used, will then be removed. A part of the carotid artery may need to be removed. In this case, an artificial graft or a piece of vein will be sewn in to replace it. The neck incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site.
How Long Will It Take?
2 to 4 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain and discomfort are common in the first week. Medicine and home care help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 1 to 3 days. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
Recovery may take up to 2 weeks. Physical activity may be limited during this time. Diet changes can help prevent a return of plaque buildup.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have any new symptoms or:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Baiu I, Stern JR. Carotid artery endarterectomy. JAMA. 2020;324(1):110.
Carotid artery stenosis repair. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/carotid-artery-stenosis-repair. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Carotid endarterectomy. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/16849-carotid-artery-disease-carotid-endarterectomy. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Questions and answers about carotid endarterectomy. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Stroke-Hope-Through-Research/Questions-Answers-Carotid-Endarterectomy. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Stroke treatments. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke#. Accessed August 31, 2021
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA