Carotid Artery Stenting: What to Expect at Home
Carotid artery stenting is a procedure to open a narrowed carotid artery. There are two carotid arteries—one on each side of the neck—that supply blood to the brain. Fatty buildup (plaque) can narrow these arteries. When one or both of your carotid arteries are narrowed, it can make it hard for blood to flow to the brain. The buildup also raises your risk of stroke. This procedure may improve blood flow to your brain and lower your risk of having a stroke.
You may have a bruise or small lump where the catheter was put in. This is normal and will go away. The area may feel sore for a few days. You can do light activities around the house. But don't do anything strenuous until your doctor says it's okay. This may be for several days.
You will have regular tests to check blood flow in your carotid arteries.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- If the doctor gave you a sedative:
- For 24 hours, don't do anything that requires attention to detail, such as going to work, making important decisions, or signing any legal documents. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
- For your safety, do not drive or operate any machinery that could be dangerous. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
- Do not do strenuous exercise and do not lift, pull, or push anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
- If the catheter was placed in your groin, try not to walk up stairs for the first couple of days.
- If the catheter was placed in your arm near your wrist, do not bend your wrist deeply for the first couple of days. Be careful using your hand to get into and out of a chair or bed.
- If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- Your doctor will tell you when you can have sex again.
- Carry your stent identification card with you at all times.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out the dye. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- Keep eating a heart-healthy diet that has lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you need help with your diet, talk to your doctor. You also may want to talk to a dietitian. This expert can help you learn about healthy foods and plan meals.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner such as aspirin. It is important that you take these medicines exactly as directed to help reduce your risk of a stroke. Be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
Care of the catheter site
- For 1 day or for as long as your doctor recommends, keep a bandage over the spot where the doctor put in the catheter.
- Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry.
- Do not soak the catheter site until it is healed. Don't take a bath for 1 week, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.
- If you are bleeding, lie down and press on the area for 15 minutes to try to make it stop. If the bleeding does not stop, call your doctor, nurse advice line, or seek immediate medical care.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
- Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
- Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
- A fast or irregular heartbeat.
- You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
- Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden trouble speaking.
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
- Sudden problems with walking or balance.
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
- You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness of the skin.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
- Your leg, arm, or hand is painful, looks blue, or feels cold, numb, or tingly.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Robert A. Kloner MD, PhD - Cardiology & Caroline S. Rhoads MD - Internal Medicine & Stephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology