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What is a carotid endarterectomy?

Carotid Endarterectomy

A carotid endarterectomy is a surgery to remove plaque buildup from your carotid arteries. It is a treatment for carotid artery disease and can help prevent a stroke. Carotid endarterectomy involves opening the carotid arteries in your neck and removing the inner lining that has become diseased or damaged by plaque.

You have two carotid arteries, one on each side of your neck. They are the major arteries that carry blood from your heart to your brain. A buildup of plaque can narrow or block your carotid arteries. This is called carotid artery disease, and it puts you at risk of stroke.

A carotid endarterectomy is a major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a carotid endarterectomy.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform one or more diagnostic procedures in addition to a carotid endarterectomy. These procedures will tell your doctor how much plaque is in your carotid arteries. They include:

  • Carotid angiography is a procedure that allows your doctor to take a picture or image (called an angiogram) of your carotid arteries
  • Carotid ultrasound is a noninvasive, painless screening test that allows your doctor to examine your carotid arteries and evaluate the flow of blood through them.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: May 6, 2013

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Medical References

Biller J, Feinberg WM, Castaldo JE, Whittemore AD, Harbaugh RE, Dempsey RJ, et al. Guidelines for carotid endarterectomy: a statement for healthcare professionals from a special writing group of the stroke council, American Heart Association. Circulation. 1998;97:501-509. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/97/5/501.full
Carotid Endarterectomy. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/carend/carend_what.html. Accessed April 24, 2013.
Carotid Endarterectomy. Society for Vascular Surgery. http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/carotid-endarterectomy.aspx. Accessed April 24, 2013.
Deep Cervical Plexus Block. The New York School of Regional Anesthesia. http://www.nysora.com/peripheral_nerve_blocks/nerve_stimulator_techniques/3102-deep-cervical-plexus-block.html#Overview. Accessed April 24, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf
Questions and Answers about Carotid Endarterectomy. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/carotid_endarterectomy_backgrounder.htm. Accessed April 24, 2013.

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