Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove plaque buildup inside the carotid artery so that normal blood flow may be restored. This procedure is usually recommended for patients who have suffered from a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke, and whose carotid arteries are at least 70 percent blocked.
After the patient has received general anesthesia, a carotid endarterectomy will begin with an incision made in the neck to expose the narrowed carotid artery. A shunt is put in place to direct blood flow away from the area being operated on. The surgeon opens the artery and removes the plaque, usually in one piece. A vein from the leg may be grafted onto the carotid artery in order to widen it. The shunt is removed and all incisions are closed. The carotid endarterectomy procedure usually takes two hours.
A hospital stay is usually required after a carotid endarterectomy. Day-to-day activities can be continued about a week after surgery, as long as they don't involve strenuous physical labor. Neck aches may last for about 2 weeks after surgery so it is important that the patient not to turn their head too fast during the recovery period.
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with the carotid endarterectomy procedure. Some of these risks include a reaction to anesthesia, the development of blood clots, a heart attack, stroke, redevelopment of plaque buildup, infection and death.