Top of the page
A carotid endarterectomy (say "kuh-RAW-tid en-dar-tuh-REK-tuh-mee") is done to remove fatty buildup (plaque) from one of the carotid arteries. There are two of these arteries. One runs along each side of the neck. They supply blood to your brain. When plaque builds up in either one, it can limit blood flow to your brain. The plaque also raises your risk of stroke. This surgery may lower your risk of stroke.
The doctor will make a cut (incision) in your neck. Then the doctor will make a cut in the carotid artery and take out the plaque.
Next, the doctor will close the cut in the artery with stitches. The doctor may sew a man-made or tissue patch to close the cut in the artery. Then the doctor will use stitches to close the cut in your skin. It will leave a scar. But the scar will fade with time.
You may stay in the hospital for at least 1 or 2 days.
During carotid endarterectomy, your surgeon:
You may stay in the hospital for at least a day or two.
You may have a sore throat for a few days. You can expect the incision to be sore for about a week. The area around it may also be swollen and bruised at first. The area in front of the incision may be numb. This numbness usually gets better after several months.
You may feel more tired than usual for several weeks after surgery. You can do light activities around the house. But don't do anything strenuous until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for at least 2 weeks.
You will have regular tests to check blood flow in your carotid arteries.
Carotid endarterectomy is done to help lower your risk of stroke.
Your doctor may recommend this procedure based on certain things. These include:footnote 1, footnote 2, footnote 3
Your doctor can help you understand your risk of stroke and whether endarterectomy might be an option for you.
For people who haven't had a stroke or TIA, it's not clear when endarterectomy might be a good choice. The surgery may help prevent a stroke in the long run. But in the short term, it increases the risk of stroke and death. Medicine and a heart-healthy lifestyle may work as well as surgery to prevent a stroke. And they don't have the risks of surgery.
It's not clear that this surgery will reduce your stroke risk more than medicines and lifestyle changes alone.footnote 1, footnote 4 Studies are being done to compare current medical therapy with endarterectomy.
An endarterectomy can help lower your risk of stroke if your carotid artery is narrowed by 50% or more. People with less than 50% narrowing do not benefit from surgery.footnote 2, footnote 3
You may benefit most from endarterectomy if it is done within 2 weeks of the stroke or TIA.footnote 2, footnote 3
The risks of carotid endarterectomy include:
The risks of a procedure depend on things like your age and your overall health. Who does the procedure and where it is done are also important.
CitationsMeschia JF, et al. (2014). Guidelines for the primary prevention of stroke: A statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online October 28, 2014. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000046. Accessed October 29, 2014.Kleindorfer DO, et al. (2021). 2021 Guideline for the prevention of stroke in patients with stroke and transient ischemic attack: A guideline from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 52(7): e364–e467. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000375. Accessed June 4, 2021.AbuRahma AF, et al. (2021). Society for Vascular Surgery clinical practice guidelines for management of extracranial cerebrovascular disease. Journal of Vascular Surgery, published online June 19, 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvs.2021.04.073. Accessed July 19, 2021.AbuRahma AF, et al. (2021). Society for Vascular Surgery implementation document for management of extracranial cerebrovascular disease. Journal of Vascular Surgery, published online June 19, 2021. DOI: 110.1016/j.jvs.2021.04.074. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Current as of: April 29, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Robert A. Kloner MD, PhD - Cardiology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.