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What To Expect After Carotid Endarterectomy

After carotid endarterectomy (CEA), you may stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. This allows you to safely recover from the procedure.

If your surgery takes place early in the day and you're doing well, you may be able to go home the same day.

Recovery

For a few days after the surgery, your neck may hurt. You also may find it hard to swallow. Your doctor may advise you to eat soft foods that are easy to swallow until your neck isn't as sore. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help control any pain or discomfort.

Talk with your doctor about when it's safe for you to go back to your normal activities after having CEA.

Ongoing Care

After CEA, ongoing care and treatment are important. Discuss your treatment needs with your doctor. Ask him or her when you should schedule followup visits.

Talk with your doctor about when to seek emergency care. Problems that require urgent care may include severe headaches and swelling in the neck. Signs or symptoms that suggest a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or "mini-stroke") also require urgent care. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion and trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, and unexplained falls
  • Severe headache with no clear cause

Let your doctor know if you have questions about any of your medicines or how to take them. After CEA, your doctor may prescribe anticlotting medicines, such as low-dose aspirin and clopidogrel. These medicines help prevent blood clots from forming or getting larger.

As part of your long-term treatment, you can take steps to keep your carotid arteries healthy. One important step is to not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of carotid artery disease and stroke.

If you smoke, ask your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart." Although these resources focus on heart health, they include general information about how to quit smoking.

Follow your treatment plan for high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. This can help prevent plaque buildup and blood clots in your carotid arteries.

Some people need a second CEA due to repeat plaque buildup. Following your treatment plan can help lower your chance of needing a second CEA; it also can reduce your risk of stroke.

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December 1, 2010