Carotid Endarterectomy

What is carotid endarterectomy?

Carotid endarterectomy (CEA) is a surgical procedure to remove fatty deposits (plaque) from the inside of the carotid arteries in your neck that supply blood to the brain. It is the most frequently performed surgery to prevent stroke, with approximately 100,000 procedures done each year (40% of them in women).

Location of the carotid arteries (there is one on each side of the neck). Source:NHLBI

Plaque that builds up on the walls of the carotid arteries can cause them to narrow, reducing blood flow to parts of the brain. Bits of plaque can break off, forming dangerous clots that can become lodged in a blood vessel in the brain, completely blocking blood flow and causing a TIA or blocked-vessel (ischemic) stroke.

What is carotid endarterectomy used for?

Carotid endarterectomy is used to prevent another blocked-vessel stroke in people with severely narrowed arteries who have already had a TIA or stroke. It can also be used to prevent a first stroke or TIA in people who have carotid arteries narrowed by atherosclerosis. The narrowing may be detected by your doctor during a regular physical examination by listening for a sound in the carotid artery on each side of your neck with a stethoscope, or if you have other symptoms that are associated with artery disease or stroke.

Images of narrowed carotid artery before (left) and after correction

If your doctor suspects that your carotid arteries have been narrowed by atherosclerosis, he or she will use imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the amount of narrowing. The most common tests used to diagnose carotid artery disease are carotid ultrasound, CT angiography, catheter angiography, and magnetic resonance angiography.

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