Carotid Artery Surgery

The result of a stroke or TIA (see sidebar) can have a major impact on an individual’s entire life, including permanent weakness, speech difficulty, diminished mental capacity and incontinence — in some cases, stroke results in death.

How does this happen? A stroke is the sudden death of brain cells due to a lack of oxygen. Although it can happen for several different reasons, one of the key factors in many strokes is related to carotid artery disease. In some cases, a clot forms in the carotid artery and blocks blood flow to the brain. In other cases, it is the result of a blood clot or atherosclerotic plaque that breaks off and travels to the brain.

Carotid endarterectomy is a surgery to remove plaque from one or both carotid arteries, thus reopening the narrowed artery. During the procedure, a 4- to 5-inch incision is made in the neck just below the jawbone, exposing the artery. The blood flow through the narrowed area is temporarily rerouted using a shunt, or small tube, which reroutes the blood flow to your brain while the physician works on the artery. The artery is opened and the plaque is carefully loosened from the artery wall and removed. The shunt is then removed and the incision closed.

Carotid endarterectomy is performed on an inpatient basis with either general or local anesthesia. Your physician will explain your options before surgery. In most cases, patients are able to leave the hospital within a day or two after surgery. Sometimes the carotid artery can become re-blocked, a condition known as restenosis. Your physician may recommend carotid artery stenting to help reduce or eliminate the restenosis.

Carotid artery disease testing is typically recommended for individuals who:

  • are over age 50
  • have a family (or personal) history of vascular or heart disease including heart attack, stroke or TIA
  • have high cholesterol
  • have high blood pressure
  • have been diagnosed with atherosclerosis
  • have ever smoked or currently smoke
  • drink excessively
  • are overweight and/or are inactive
  • have diabetes or sickle cell anemia.

Fortunately, for those patients who are at a high risk for carotid artery disease, a noninvasive ultrasound exam can identify increased plaque build-up. These diagnostic exams can be performed by organizations such as Advanced Mobile Diagnostics. AMD holds the distinction of being one of the first 1000 Vascular and Echocardiography laboratories in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico to be granted accreditation by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular and Echocardiography Laboratories (ICAVL/ICAEL).


* Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is for informational purposes only. It does not take the place of, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from your physician.

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    As plaque continues to build, the arteries narrow and harden, reducing blood flow.

    Carotid Artery

    The two arteries (one located on each side of the neck) that take blood to the brain.

    Carotid Artery Disease

    The buildup of plaque or blood clots in the carotid arteries. If a clot or plaque break free and travel to the brain, it can result in a stroke.


    The sticky material consisting of cholesterol, white blood cells, fat, calcium and other substances. Blood clots can develop from this plaque, which is why it is critical to manage cholesterol level.


    A tube used to move fluid from one place to another or to relieve pressure from fluids build-up.


    A flexible metal-mesh tube.


    Also known as a cerebralvascular accident (CVA). It occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or significantly reduced.

    Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

    Also known as a mini-stroke, this is when a clot or plaque blocks a tiny artery in the brain.