Carotid Endarterectomy: Preparing for Surgery
And Planning for Going Home
A carotid endarterectomy is surgery to
remove blockage in the blood vessels
leading to your brain.
After the Surgery
You will remain in the recovery room one to
two hours until fully awake, at which time
you will be taken to either NSICU or a room
on D6/4. Most often, your stay will be about
2 days. During this time, nurses and doctors
will be checking your arm and leg strength,
pupil size, and level of alertness. They will
be keeping track of the amount of fluid you
drink and excrete. You will have an IV in an
arm vein until able to take enough fluid by
mouth, and leg wraps to prevent clots
forming in the legs.
You may feel more pressure in the head or
have a headache. Pain medicine will be
ordered and ready if this occurs.
You will be asked to get out of bed the same
day or the day after, and to slowly increase
your activity in order to be walking in the
halls before discharge. Walking is the best
You will be offered clear liquids first,
returning slowly to a normal diet as you are
able to take solid food.
Care of the Incision
Most carotid endarterectomy incisions are
closed under the skin so there are no sutures
on the outside. You may shower with the
incision uncovered, after 3 days, but do not
soak in the bath. You may allow the water to
flow gently over the area. Do not rub the
incision. After your shower, gently pat dry.
When shaving, be careful to avoid the
It is normal to have some numbness along
your incision, neck, and earlobe. This
numbness may decrease with time.
It is normal to have some pain at the incision
and in your neck. Your doctor has
prescribed medicine for you to use at home.
This is often the same type you have been
getting in the hospital. As you recover, your
pain will decrease. Please refer to your
discharge medication list for other
medication options for pain.
By the time you go home, you may be doing
some of your normal routine. You may tire
more easily than before surgery. This is
normal. Your strength and energy level will
increase as your body heals. You should
sleep with your head raised on at least 2
pillows. This will help decrease the swelling
that may still be present in your neck.
What to Avoid
ξ No lifting more than 10-15 pounds
for 2 weeks
ξ No driving until advised by your
doctor. It may be hard to turn your
head due to neck pain.
ξ Avoid contact sports or heavy
ξ Your new scar will require sunscreen
for the rest of your life. Start using
sunscreen after 4 weeks. Protect your
scar with a scarf or clothing before
ξ Ask your doctor at your follow-up
visit when you may return to work.
Also ask when you can resume
You may resume your normal diet when you
return home. Drink plenty of liquids (8-10 8
oz. glasses of water per day) and eat foods
high in fiber (whole grain breads and
cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables) to
prevent constipation and straining to have a
bowel movement. If this does not help, use a
stool softener (such as Colace®) or a
laxative. Please refer to the “Avoiding
Constipation” Health Facts for you.
You will return for a clinic visit in ____
When to Call 911
The symptoms below can be life-
threatening. If you notice them, call 911 and
go to the nearest emergency room right
away even if they last only a few seconds or
minutes. These are warning signs of a stroke
and early treatment is vital.
ξ Sudden severe headache with no
ξ Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness,
or a fall
ξ Sudden dimness or loss of vision,
especially in one eye
ξ Difficulty speaking or trouble
ξ Sudden weakness or numbness of the
face, arm or leg on one side of the
ξ Use your cholesterol medicines as
How to Reduce Your Risk for a Stroke
Carotid Artery disease is a risk factor for
strokes. It is important to reduce other risk
factors. These are changes that you can do
by yourself and with your doctors.
ξ Stop smoking
ξ East a healthy diet
ξ Keep your BMI (Body Mass Index)
under 25. This is a healthy weight
for your height.
ξ Avoid dehydration
ξ Manage your stress
ξ Have your blood pressure checked
yearly or more often, if needed.
Keep your blood pressure less than
ξ Use your blood thinner medicines as
ξ If you have diabetes, work with your
doctor to control your blood sugars.
ξ Use your cholesterol medicines as
When to Call your Doctor
ξ Twice each day you should look at
your incision. Watch for signs of
infection. If you notice any of these
signs or symptoms, please call your
ξ An increase in redness or warmth at
the area of the incision or red streaks
on your skin coming from the wound.
ξ A bulging or swelling at the incision
ξ Any new drainage or bleeding, or
your incision opens
ξ Fever greater than 100.5° F (38.1°C)
by mouth. If it is still more than
100.5° F after 4 hours, call your
ξ Pain or numbness that worsens or
numbness in a new area
If you have more questions once you are home, please call:
Neurosurgery Clinic from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at (608) 263-7502. After hours, your call will be
forwarded to the paging operator
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911 Copyright © 7/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and
Clinics Authority, All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4918