You had carotid artery surgery to restore proper blood flow to your brain. Your surgeon made an incision (cut) in your neck over your carotid artery. A tube was put in place for blood to flow around the blocked area during your surgery. Your surgeon opened your carotid artery and carefully removed plaque from inside it. The surgeon may have placed a stent (a tiny wire mesh tube) in this area to help keep the artery open. Your artery was closed with stitches after the plaque was removed. The skin incision was closed with surgical tape.
During your surgery, your heart and brain activity were monitored closely.
What to Expect at Home
You should be able to do most of your normal activities within 3 - 4 weeks. You may have a slight neck ache for about 2 weeks.
You may start doing everyday activities as soon as you are able. You may need help with meals, taking care of the house, and shopping at first.
Do not drive until your incision is healed, and you can turn your head without discomfort.
You may have some numbness along your jaw and near your earlobe. This is from the incision. Most of the time, this goes away in 6 - 12 months.
You may shower when you get home. It is okay if the surgical tape on your incision gets wet. Do not soak, scrub, or have shower water beat directly on the tape. The tape will curl up and fall off on its own after about a week.
Look carefully at your incision every day for any changes. Do not put lotion, cream, or herbal remedies on it without asking your doctor first if it is okay.
Until the incision heals, do not wear turtlenecks or other clothes around your neck that rub against the incision.
Having carotid artery surgery does not cure the cause of the blockage in your arteries. Your arteries may become narrow again. To prevent this:
Eat healthy foods, exercise (if your doctor advises you to), stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce your stress level.
If you are taking medicines for high blood pressure or diabetes, take them the way your doctor has asked you to.
Your doctor may instruct you to take aspirin and/or a medicine called clopidogrel (Plavix), or another medicine when you go home. These medicines keep your blood from forming clots in your arteries and in the stent. Do not stop taking them without talking with your doctor first.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
You have a headache, become confused, or have numbness or weakness in any part of your body.
You have problems with your eyesight, you cannot talk normally, or you have trouble understanding what other people are saying.
You cannot move your tongue to the side of your mouth.
You have trouble swallowing.
You have chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath that does not go away with rest.
You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
You have chills or a fever over 101°F or a fever that does not go away after you take acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Your incision becomes red or painful, or yellow or green discharge is draining from it.
Your legs are swelling.
2011 ASA/ACCF/AHA/AANN/AANS/ACR/ASNR/CNS/SAIP/SCAI/SIR/SNIS/SVM/SVS Guideline on the Management of Patients With Extracranial Carotid and Vertebral Artery Disease. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 2011;124:e54-e130.
Eisenhauer AC, White CJ, Bhatt DL. Endovascular treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 63.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.