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NHS Choices Medical Reference

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A carotid endarterectomy is the recommended treatment for carotid stenosis (narrowing of the carotid arteries). Studies have shown this surgery to be highly effective when the stenosis is over 70%.

If you who have already had a stroke (when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed) or transient ischaemic attack (TIA or 'mini-stroke'), a carotid endarterectomy can reduce the risk of having another stroke over the next three years by 30%. 

Complications after surgery

There are some complications that can develop after surgery. These include:

  • restenosis (when the carotid artery becomes narrowed again) - estimates suggest that this can become narrow enough to require surgery again in 2-4% of people,
  • haemotoma (a swelling containing blood) - this can affect around 5-7% of people, but can easily be treated by draining the blood out,
  • infection - the wound where the incision (cut) was made can get infected, but this affects less than 1% of people and is easily treated with antibiotics, and
  • temporary nerve damage - this can affect up to 10% of people and causes difficulty swallowing, a hoarse voice, or numbness in your face, or tongue.

The temporary nerve damage usually clears up within one month of the surgery without any further treatment.

Improving your results

After surgery, your risk of having a stroke or TIA is reduced. However, there are some steps you can take yourself to reduce your risks as well.

  • Watch your diet - eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and watch your calorie intake. The current UK guideline daily amounts are 2,000 calories for women, and 2,500 calories for men.
  • Maintain a healthy weight - you can calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to help you.
  • Exercise regularly - particularly aerobic exercises, such as walking.
  • Stop smoking - if you still smoke, you should quit now.

For more information, see the Health A-Z topic about preventing strokes.

Carotid artery

You have two carotid arteries in your neck. These provide the main blood supply to the brain.

Arteries

Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Stroke

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed or restricted. Brain cells begin to die and this can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

Incision

An incision is a cut made in the body with a surgical instrument during an operation.
Medical Review: November 20, 2009

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