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Disease Information : Carotid Artery Disease : FAQ’s

Carotid Artery Disease : FAQ’s

General info on Carotid Artery Disease

Q. My doctor recommended that I have a carotid endartectomy. What is involved, and how safe is it?

A. Carotid endartectomy is a surgical procedure to remove plaque that has built up in the arteries along each side of your neck, the carotid arteries. The procedure takes about an hour, but the speed of the operation is less important than the skill of the surgeon. It is important to ask the vascular surgeon what his or her mortality rate is for this operation, and if it is more than one or two percent for someone without symptoms, then check with another surgeon. This procedure performed by an experienced surgeon is relatively safe and successful. Many patients enter the hospital the morning of the operation and stay only a day. Once home, you should stay quiet for a few days and then return to normal activities gradually over the next week or so, without any severe straining for four to six weeks.

Q. Please advise on the purpose of an ultrasound of the carotid arteries. Recently, during a physical, my husband’s doctor did not like the sound of his carotid arteries and has ordered an ultrasound.

A. An ultrasound provides information about how blood flows in your arteries both as a waveform that looks similar to a heart EKG and as an image of the artery. The shape of the waveform gives the doctor useful information about he blood flow. The images help to determine if you have plaque, narrowed arteries or blockages in the blood vessels of the carotid. The ultrasound can give a doctor information about the speed or the blood at different points along the carotid, or if it slows or speeds up which would indicates a narrowing. Think of a river: if it goes through a narrow channel, it will go faster than if it goes through a wider section

Often ultrasounds are in color, which also lets the doctor know if the blood is flowing correctly or not.

The advantages are that it does not hurt to have the exam. Your husband will lie on an exam table. Gel is spread on his neck and an ultrasound instrument will be moved over the neck to track the flow in the carotid artery. It would be normal for an adult to have some narrowing, but if the narrowing is significant, the risk for a stroke or TIA increases.

The result of the ultrasound exam will help the doctor determine if additional treatment is needed at this time.

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