The carotid artery is the main blood supply to the brain. When this artery gets furred up it increases your risk of having a stroke. This is especially so if you have had a mini-stroke (TIA) or even a minor stroke, where your risk of having another stroke is up to 30% (1 in 3).
This can be prevented by performing an operation to clean up the fur in the artery known as a carotid endarterectomy.
The furring of the artery is confirmed by an ultrasound scan and the treatment will be discussed and optimised for you.
What are the symptoms
You could have a mini-stroke or a TIA (transient ischaemic attack). This could manifest as an inability to move your arm or leg, loss of sensation in your arm, leg or face. It could cause loss of speech or your face could become distorted. In a TIA, symptoms improve within a few minutes.
It could also manifest as loss of vision in one eye, which usually lasts for a few seconds or minutes (amourosis fugax).
It could also be a full stroke which is the same as a mini stroke but the symptoms being persistent. If that happens you will need to call 999 and come to the hospital. You may have seen the F.A.S.T. ads on TV and print.
Does everybody need surgery?
No they don’t. When you have the above symptoms you should contact your GP as soon as possible. You will be referred to the TIA clinic and have a scan of your carotid artery.
About 25% of cases have blockages in the carotid artery and only these cases go on to require surgery.
What are the complications?
The operation itself carries a risk of stroke, which is about 2-3%. This could happen during the operation or in the following 24 hours.
Other complications include bruising around the operation site. Most people end up with numbness around the scar. There is a small risk of damage to the nerves supplying your tongue and your voice box.
If all goes well, most stay in hospital for 24 hours and recover fully on an average in about 3 weeks.
What happens if I don’t need surgery?
If your symptoms are persistent this requires admission in hospital for treatment. This can occasionally mean clot-busting drugs. The main stay of treatment is drugs and rehabilitation through physiotherapy.