When your carotid arteries become blocked by plaque, you are at risk of a stroke or an embolism--a blood clot that travels and becomes stuck in one of the small veins in the brain. These are very serious health problems. One way to treat such blockages is with an endarterectomy, which is the medical term for carotid artery surgery. This is a very common form of surgery, and most people are able to return to their normal daily activities after about three weeks of recovery.
After carotid artery surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a couple of days so you can be monitored. In some cases, you may even be able to go home the same day as your surgery. Your neck is going to hurt for a few days after your operation, so your physician will more than likely prescribe a pain medication. Swallowing will be difficult for a while. You will probably want to eat soft foods until the pain from your neck subsides and it is easier to swallow. Most patients are also told to take a low-dose aspirin or are prescribed other antiplatelet medications. The goal is to prevent blood clots from forming.
You will need to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor so he or she can continue to monitor your recovery.
An important part of the recovery process is the big job of changing daily habits. This is necessary to help keep your carotid arteries free from blockages. If you smoke, you must stop. Smoking adds stress to your arteries. Quitting will cut your risk of stroke considerably.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is necessary. These foods contain potassium, folate and antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of stroke.
Cut back on cholesterol and fats, especially saturated fat. Saturated fat causes plaque to build up in the arteries.
Limit the amount of salt you use. Salt is a leading cause of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Finally, a good exercise program will lower your blood pressure. It will also help increase your level of good cholesterol.
Signs to Watch For
When you go home, watch for signs of swelling in the neck, sudden weakness in the face or limbs, the inability to move one or more of your limbs, or trouble speaking; these are signs of a stroke. If you experience severe headaches, dizziness or loss of balance, or any of the previously mentioned problems, consult your physician immediately.