Are You a Good Candidate for Carotid Artery Surgery?


Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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10 Things You Should Know About Carotid Endarterectomy

Carotid artery surgery restores blood flow through your carotid arteries. These major vessels supply blood to your brain.

The goal of carotid artery surgery, also known as carotid endarterectomy, is to treat carotid artery disease, improve arterial circulation, and prevent a stroke. 

Are There Other Treatment Options?

In some cases, doctors recommend less invasive treatments to treat carotid artery disease. Less invasive treatments include medications and lifestyle changes. Doctors may prescribe blood thinners to reduce the likelihood of blood clots forming in the carotid arteries. Lifestyle changes include quitting smoking and taking action, such as exercise and a low-fat, low-salt diet, to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol level. 

Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on surgery.

When to Consider Carotid Artery Surgery

You may want to consider surgery if carotid artery disease is severe and you are having symptoms. 

Your doctor may decide that you are a good candidate for carotid artery surgery if:

  • Your carotid arteries are 60% blocked or more, even if you aren’t having symptoms.
  • You have had a prior stroke.
  • You have had prior TIAs (transient ischemic attacks).
  • Nonsurgical management like medications and lifestyle changes hasn’t worked.

If you decide on surgery, ask if you are a good candidate for a catheter-based procedure, or angioplasty. It can involve a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. 

Who Is NOT a Good Candidate for Carotid Artery Surgery?

Some medical conditions put you at higher risk of complications after carotid artery surgery. You may not be a good candidate for carotid artery surgery if:

  • TIAs are the result of narrowing in arteries other than the carotid arteries.
  • You have severe coronary artery disease.
  • You have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • You have severe hardening of the arteries throughout your body.
  • You have heart or kidney failure.
  • You have a severe illness or infection.

What to Expect

A surgeon performs carotid artery surgery with an incision in your neck. If you have a catheter procedure, a surgeon makes a small incision in your groin for the catheter.

You may have general or regional anesthesia, and you may need to stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days.

Your neck may hurt and swallowing may be uncomfortable while your neck heals. This means you will need to take it easy for several days. Full recovery can take several weeks.

Carotid artery surgery will not prevent carotid artery disease from coming back. You will need to stick to healthy lifestyle habits and take your medications regularly. This can be a challenge, so ask for help. Find someone who will give you support.