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.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Reasons for Procedure
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Damage to the carotid artery or nerves in the neck
- High blood pressure or low blood pressure
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
- How much the carotid artery is blocked
- Blockage of the carotid arteries on both sides of the neck
- Long-term diseases such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may talk to you about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
- Tests that will need to be done before surgery
The doctor will give:
- General anesthesia—you will be asleep
- Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
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:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
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:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
- Lasting nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicines
- Severe headaches, swelling in the neck, or extreme sweating
- Cough, problems breathing, or chest or arm pain
- Drooping facial muscles or weakness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Problems thinking, speaking, seeing, or moving
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 Last Updated: 8/31/2021