Carotid Endarterectomy to Remove Plaque

Arteries are a key part of the circulatory system and are responsible for transporting oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body. Over time, plaque can build up in the arteries and restrict blood flow, which increases the risk of stroke and can cause other problems in the cardiovascular system. 

One procedure to remove blockages in the carotid artery is a carotid endarterectomy. 

What is a carotid endarterectomy?

A carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure to physically clear a partial blockage in the carotid artery. Using either general or local anesthesia, the surgeon will make an incision and remove the plaque that’s causing the blockage. 

A carotid endarterectomy is typically reserved for severe blockages of the carotid artery. For less severe blockages, a carotid angioplasty and stenting may be used instead. This is a procedure where instead of removing the plaque, a catheter is inserted and inflated to push the walls of the artery out and then a stent is placed to keep the artery open.

What are the risks?

As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks associated with a carotid endarterectomy. In most patients, there is minimal risk of bleeding, infection, stroke, heart attack, or blood clots. Risks can vary depending on the patient’s overall health, severity of the blockage, prior history of stroke, and other health factors. 

What should I expect during the procedure?

You’ll receive either a general or local anesthesia to put you to sleep or completely numb the area, and then your doctor will make an incision over the portion of the carotid artery that is blocked. Once the artery is open, the surgeon will remove the plaque that’s causing the blockage and then will suture the artery and the skin closed.  

The surgery usually takes between one and two hours. Some patients will go home the day of the procedure while others may be monitored in the hospital for a day or two. Lingering effects are typically minor—some neck soreness, difficulty swallowing, and a temporary limit on the amount of weight you can lift until the incision has healed. 

If you have a history of carotid artery disease or stroke, contact the Oklahoma Heart Hospital to schedule an appointment today to discuss treatment options.