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Carotid Artery Disease & Surgery

Carotid Artery Disease & Surgery 

Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure that Dr O’Donnell performs in an operating theatre under general anaesthesia ie ‘you are asleep’. She removes problematic plaque/fatty deposits known as atherosclerosis from the carotid artery; the main blood vessels that supply blood to your brain.  Carotid artery disease is responsible for 20% of embolic strokes; the remainder are largely due to cardiac disease.

It is the most common treatment for carotid artery disease and is highly beneficial for people who have had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack or TIA (commonly known as a ‘mini stoke’) due to carotid artery disease. It may also be recommended for certain individuals with severe narrowing of the carotid artery without a history of symptoms. You should remain on your aspirin and clopidogrel before surgery as these will help protect your brain during the operation.  

Surgery usually takes 1-2 hours. During the surgery, an incision is made over the neck to expose the narrowed artery. A plastic tube called a shunt is placed in the blood vessel above and below the narrowing to reroute the blood to your brain while Dr O’Donnell operates. She removes the plaque and patches the artery with a patch so that it doesn’t narrow again. When you wake up you will have a drain/plastic tube in your neck that stays in overnight.  

There are risks associated with any surgical procedure including stroke, nerve injury, bleeding into the wound/haematoma, numbness around the scar etc. Dr O’Donnell will explain all of these to you. Not everyone needs their carotid artery operated on; it is only when there is good evidence to support a long-term benefit for the individual patient. Your case will be reviewed individually and tailored to your needs.  

Australia & New Zealand Society of Vascular Surgery information on carotid surgery, TIA & stroke

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