How Serious Is A Carotid Artery Surgery?

Reviewed on 11/20/2020

Though utmost care is taken by your surgeon during the procedure, carotid surgery does carry certain risks. The risks of carotid artery surgery include:

The risk is higher if you suffer from diabetes or if you are more than 75 years old.

What is carotid artery surgery?

Carotid artery surgery is a surgery to treat carotid artery disease. The carotid artery is the main artery present on both sides of the neck that supplies blood to the brain and face. A buildup of the fatty substance (plaques) can block the blood flow in the carotid arteries entirely or partially, resulting in a stroke. Carotid artery surgery restores proper blood flow to the brain. There are two types of carotid artery surgery:

When should you have carotid artery surgery?

Carotid artery surgery is ideal in these cases:

  • When the carotid artery is severely blocked with a previous history of stroke or mini-stroke
  • When there is a moderate blockage in the carotid artery with a history of stroke or mini-stroke
  • When there is a severe blockage, but there is no history of stroke or mini-stroke

What to expect during carotid artery surgery?

Before the procedure:

You should enlist your medical and medication history to the physician. Tell the physician about what drugs you are taking, even nonprescription medicines or herbs. Before the surgery, you should:

  • Ask your physician about the drugs to be taken on the day of the surgery
  • Inform the physician if you are on blood thinners
  • Inform the physician if you have a cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or any illness
  • Stop smoking a few days before the procedure
  • Stop drinking or eating anything after midnight the night before your procedure
  • Stop taking antiarrhythmic medications several days before the surgery
  • Ask the doctor about any precautions if you have a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator

During a carotid endarterectomy:

  • You may receive general anesthesia or local anesthesia along with a sedative to make you relax throughout the procedure
  • You have to lie on your side on the operating table, the side where the blocked artery is present
  • The physician makes a cut in the neck to expose the carotid artery
  • After exposing the artery by shifting the structures of the neck, the physician makes a cut in the artery
  • To divert the blood flow around the surgery, the physician places a shunt
  • After placing the shunt, the physician removes the plaque from the artery
  • Next, the physician removes the shunt and close the artery with stitches
  • Finally, the physician places a small tube in the neck to drain the blood
  • The physician applies a sterile bandage or dressing at the site

During an angioplasty:

  • During an angioplasty, the physician passes a catheter through a small incision (cut) made on the leg, arm, or wrist.
  • A tiny balloon attached to the catheter would blow up and push through the blockage.
  • Finally, the physician places a wire mesh (stent) in this blocked area. The stent is left in the artery to keep it open.

After the procedure:

  • The drain will be removed 24 hours after the surgery
  • You may have to stay overnight in the hospital

After going home:

  • Avoid physical activity for 3-4 weeks
  • Don’t drive for 24 hours
  • Don’t drink alcohol for 24 hours after you leave the hospital
  • Shower immediately


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