Ricker Polsdorfer MD
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:
- Carotid arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain (most common)
- The aorta (the body's largest artery)—delivers blood from the heart and circulates it throughout the body
- Iliac and femoral arteries of the legs
- Renal arteries that supply the kidneys with blood
Bilateral Carotid Artery Atherosclerosis
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Reasons for Procedure TOP
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:
- Stroke, particularly if the carotid arteries are involved
- Blood clots
- Adverse reaction to the anesthesia
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:
- Give you an exam to make sure that you are healthy enough for the surgery
- Take images of your arteries
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
In addition, you may be instructed to:
- Avoid eating or drinking after midnight the night before the surgery.
- Arrange for a ride home from the hospital.
You may have:
—blocks any pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery; given through an IV
- Local anesthesia—numbs an area of your body so that you stay awake through the surgery
Description of the Procedure TOP
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 artery above the obstruction will be clamped 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? TOP
Several hours, depending on the severity of the disease
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
After surgery, there will be pain from the incisions. Ask your doctor about medication to help reduce discomfort.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is one day to one week. You may need to stay longer if complications occur.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
- You will be monitored to make sure that you are not bleeding, clotting, or developing an infection.
- You will also be monitored to make sure that your wound is healing properly and that your pain is managed.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
When you return home, you may need to:
- Take blood thinners
- Make dietary changes or work with a dietitian
- Take care of the wound to prevent infection
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Inability to urinate
- Severe headaches
- Problems with speech or vision
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Carotid artery stenosis repair. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
. Updated October 28, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at:
https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-treatments/carotid-endarterectomy. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Atherosclerosis endarterectomy. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
Accessed Septemer 15, 2017.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
: 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.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 9/23/2014