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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.