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Who Needs Carotid Endarterectomy?

Your doctor may recommend carotid endarterectomy (CEA) if you have carotid artery disease. CEA can help prevent strokes in people who have this disease.

CEA is most helpful for people who have carotid artery disease and one or more of the following:

  • A prior stroke.
  • A prior transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a "mini-stroke." During a TIA, you may have some or all of the symptoms of a stroke. However, the symptoms usually last less than 1–2 hours (although they may last up to 24 hours).
  • Severely blocked carotid arteries (even if you don't have stroke symptoms).

Other Treatments for Carotid Artery Disease

Anticlotting medicines, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, also are used to treat people who have carotid artery disease. These medicines help reduce blood clotting and lower the risk of stroke.

A procedure called carotid angioplasty may be used instead of CEA to treat blocked carotid arteries. For this procedure, a thin tube with a balloon on the end is threaded to the narrowed or blocked carotid artery.

Once in place, the balloon is inflated to push the plaque outward against the wall of the artery. Usually, the doctor then places a small metal stent (tube) in the artery. The stent reduces the risk that the artery will become blocked again.

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Carotid Endarterectomy Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Carotid Endarterectomy, visit

December 01, 2010 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.