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Carotid endarteriëctomy

  • Article
  • 2021-02-01

Also known as carotid artery surgery
Carotid endarterectomy is surgery that removes the build-up of plaque from a carotid artery in your neck.

This surgery is performed to restore normal blood flow to the brain to prevent stroke if you already have symptoms of decreased blood flow. Carotid endarterectomy can also be performed preventively if a diagnostic test such as carotid ultrasound shows a significant blockage that is likely to cause a stroke. Carotid endarterectomy is not a cure. Your arteries can become blocked again if your underlying condition, such as high blood cholesterol, is out of control and causing new plaque build-up.

Carotid endarterectomy is done in a hospital. You may have general anesthesia and will not be awake or feel pain during surgery. Your surgeon may instead decide to use local anesthesia to numb only the part of the body being worked on so that he or she can monitor your brain's response to the decreased blood flow during surgery. You will also be given medicine to relax you during surgery. Your vital signs will be monitored during surgery. You lie on your back on an operating table with your head turned to one side. Your surgeon will make an incision or cut on your neck to expose the blocked part of the carotid artery. Your surgeon will cut into the affected artery and remove the plaque through this cut. A temporary flexible tube can be inserted to allow blood to flow around the blocked area while the plaque is removed.

After surgery, you will recover in the hospital for one to two days. Your neck may hurt for a few days and you may find it difficult to swallow. Your doctor can prescribe medications to prevent blood clots and suggest measures to keep your carotid arteries healthy.

Carotid endarterectomy is fairly safe when performed by experienced surgeons. However, serious complications such as clotting, stroke or death can occur. Using anticlotting medications before and after surgery can reduce this risk. Other complications may include a reaction to anesthesia, short-term nerve injury that causes temporary numbness in your face or tongue, bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, heart attack, and seizures. The risk of complications is higher in women, the elderly, people with certain conditions such as chronic kidney disease or diabetes, and people with other serious medical conditions.

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