When Does Carotid Artery Blockage Require Surgery?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
February 3, 2023

An arterial blockage is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that often requires surgery. This is especially true of a carotid artery blockage, which can restrict blood flow to the brain. When does a carotid artery blockage require surgery? What percentage of carotid artery blockage requires surgery? The answer to these questions and more follow.

Carotid Artery Blockage and Surgery: Questions Answered

An artery blockage can happen in many different locations, but a blockage to the carotid artery is especially dangerous. The carotid transports blood to the brain and face, and there are two carotid arteries on either side of the neck. Fatty plaque build-up can partially or totally block the carotid, reducing blood flow. This can lead to a reduced blood supply to the brain and cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.

When Does a Carotid Artery Blockage Require Surgery?

A carotid artery blockage requires surgery when proper blood flow needs to be restored to the brain. Some blockages can be asymptomatic, but will still require treatment to prevent them from worsening.

What Percentage of Carotid Artery Blockage Requires Surgery?

Generally speaking, if an artery is about 70% blocked, surgery may be required. This decision can vary depending on individual health needs or other factors.

How is Carotid Artery Surgery Performed?

There are two main methods to perform carotid artery surgery. One is angioplasty with stent placement. The other is called a carotid endarterectomy. This is also known as CAS surgery, carotid artery stenosis surgery, or a carotid artery endarterectomy.

First, the patient receives either a general or local anesthetic. Next, they’re laid on the operating table with the blocked artery side turned face-up. The surgeon makes an incision over the carotid artery in the neck. They place a flexible tube called a catheter to keep blood flowing during the procedure. The artery is opened and the surgeon removes any plaque inside. After the plaque’s removed, the artery’s stitched, and blood flow should be restored. Afterward, heart activity will be closely monitored during and after surgery.

A carotid endarterectomy surgery usually takes about two hours. After the procedure, the doctor may perform tests to confirm the artery’s been opened. 

How to Prepare for a Carotid Artery Surgery?

Prior to testing, your doctor should perform a physical exam and medical tests. At this point, tell your provider any medicines currently taking, including ones without a prescription.

In the leadup before surgery, you’ll need to stop taking blood-thinning drugs. These include asprin, ibuprofin, clopidogrel (Plavix), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn,) and similar drugs. If you have any questions, ask your doctor. Stop smoking prior to surgery. Also let your provider know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness before surgery. Follow any given instructions on when to stop eating and drinking prior.

Symptoms of Carotid Artery Blockage to Look Out For

The earlier symptoms of carotid artery blockage are detected, the sooner treatment can begin. Early treatment can prevent catastrophic health problems later on.

Here are symptoms of carotid artery blockage to be on the lookout for:

  • Stroke
  • Temporary or short-term blindness in one eye
  • Problems walking/loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • A weakness or numb feeling in an arm, leg, or side of the face (often the side of the blockage)
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Temporary inability to speak or understand a conversation

If these symptoms worsen or persist, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. They will likely refer you to a vascular specialist and recommend surgery.

Put Yourself in Safe Hands with South Valley Vascular

Surgery is always a risky prospect, so schedule your next vascular surgery with the professionals at South Valley Vascular. Put yourself confidently in the safe, steady, hands, of South Valley Vascular’s board-certified vascular surgeons. They’ll likely perform a carotid ultrasound before planning the right course of treatment for you.