Carotid Artery Surgery: Uses, Risks, and Recovery

This is a surgical procedure where your doctor would recommend if there’s a blockage or narrowing of your carotid artery. Usually, the doctor would conduct a few tests just to check the severity of the blockage. If it has been blocked or narrowed up to 70% then a carotid artery surgery may be needed.

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One great tool used in the medical field to treat conditions is surgery. All thanks to surgery so many people have recovered from certain conditions. But the truth is many people are scared to be operated on. Who wouldn’t be? You would have knives pierce through your body when you’re most likely asleep and can’t feel the pain. One of the surgeries carried out these days is carotid artery surgery. This surgery’s main purpose is to restore normal blood flow back to the brain. Let’s have a look at what this surgery is all about. And what exactly it is used for.

When it comes to surgery one thing people are concerned about is the risk involved. Many people would ask their doctors what the success rate of the surgery is. This would help them have an idea of what there are about getting into. Even though the risks might be great, people still trust the doctor to do an amazing job with the surgery and help them stay alive. Another big question people ask is the recovery rate. People want to know how long it would take before they can return to their normal lives. For some surgeries, the recovery rate is very fast. While for some the recovery rate is quite slow. So let’s have a look at the risks involved in doing carotid artery surgery. Also, let’s find out its recovery rate.

Common Carotid Artery

Before we take a quick look at what carotid artery surgery is let’s have a look at what carotid arteries are. Carotid arteries are actually major blood vessels in the neck. They supply blood to parts of the body such as the face, neck, and brain. There are actually two carotid arteries. The left common carotid artery and the right common carotid artery. Each of these branches into the internal and external carotid artery. The internal carotid artery supplies the brain and the external supplies the neck and face.

There are many conditions associated with the carotid artery. And one way to fix it is with a carotid artery surgery.

What Is Carotid Artery Surgery?

Carotid artery surgery is also known as carotid endarterectomy. This procedure is used in treating carotid artery disease. This is a disease wherein fatty deposits accumulate in the carotid arteries. When this happens there’s a blockage. And with that, there’s reduced blood flow to the brain. So the solution is trying to remove the plaque.

In this surgical procedure, your doctor would give you either local or general anesthesia. And then an incision would be made right in front of your neck. After the incision is made the surgeon would open up the carotid artery and remove the plaque. And then the surgeon would then repair the artery by using stitches or a patch. The patch could be made with either an artificial material or a vein.

2 types of carotid artery surgery

But if you’ve had temporary brain damage or stroke, your doctor might consider other treatment options. Such as:

  • Medicine and diet that would help lower your normal cholesterol level.
  • Blood-thinning medications that would help lower the risks for stroke.
  • When carotid artery surgery is not considered safe, the doctors will opt for options like carotid stenting and carotid angioplasty.

2 Types of Carotid Artery Surgery

  1. Carotid endarterectomy: This type of carotid artery surgery is performed by the doctor by opening the neck carotid artery. They will remove the inside plaque lining in the arteries that cause impairment of blood flows.
  2. Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting: In this procedure, the surgeon will put a catheter in the groin. This will make the arteries wide. They will also put a stent in the arteries so that the artery will still be open. Doing this will allow enough supply of blood to the brain.

What Are the Risks Involved?

Just like any other surgery, there are risks involved. The two main risks are stroke and death. The risk of a person having a stroke is about 2%. But in people that have had a stroke before the risk is higher. As for death, there’s less than 1% death risk. And this can occur as a result of either a heart attack or stroke.

Strokes that happen after the surgery are caused by blockage of an artery in the brain. Or it could also be a result of bleeding in the brain tissue. This could happen if there’s a blood clot that forms and blocks the artery.

There are other possible complications that can arise after having this surgery. They are:

  • Pain or numbness at the site of the wound
  • Wound infection. This isn’t so common; it affects just about 1% of the people and they can be treated with antibiotics
  • Bleeding at the wound site
  • Restenosis. This is the narrowing of the carotid artery again; it happens in about 2-4% of the people
  • Nerve damage. It can lead to a hoarse voice, and also weakness or numbness on one side of the face

Just in case you’re a bit confused with any of these risks then ask questions from your doctor.

There are certain factors that increase the risk of having complications after doing carotid artery surgery. They are:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • A previous case of stroke or TIA
  • Certain health conditions such as hypertension, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
  • When there’s a blockage in the other carotid artery as well

What is the Recovery Rate?

So what should you expect after doing the surgery? Well, there are a few things to look out for. It’s possible you would have a sore throat for some days. The incision made in your neck is expected to be sore for a week. At the same time, the area of incision would be bruised and swollen at first.

The area in front of the incision as well may become numb. After about 6-12 months it’s expected to get a lot better. After closing the incision with stitches, the doctor would remove it after 7-10 days or the stitch may dissolve on its own.

It’s possible that you would feel quite tired after the surgery. And this would still last for some days. But after 1-2 weeks it’s expected that you should be able to return back to your daily activities.

For full recovery, enough rest is needed. With enough rest, the healing process is a lot faster. Also for the first few weeks avoid doing any strenuous activity. Likewise, consume enough fluids except your doctor tells you not to. With these, the recovery rate would be faster after doing carotid artery surgery.

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