Trap's carotid surgery explained
Published 06/01/2011 | 05:00
CAROTID surgery is carried out to remove the inner lining of the carotid artery, a blood vessel in the neck.
This may be necessary if the artery has become thickened or damaged, causing a narrowed area.
There are two carotid arteries, one on each side of the neck and they provide the main blood supply to the brain.
If they are thickened and left untreated, a blood clot can form in the narrowed area which can cause the blood supply to the brain to be disturbed. Brain cells begin to die, leading to brain damage.
It can also leave a person at risk of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), known as a mini-stroke. This is similar to a stroke, but the signs and symptoms are temporary and usually disappear within 24 hours. In more extreme cases it can lead to death.
Normal, healthy arteries are elastic and smooth on the inside, so that blood can easily flow through them. As people age, plaque can build up inside arteries, making them narrower and stiffer.
Around 10,000 people in Ireland have a stroke every year and narrowing of the carotid artery is responsible for about 20pc of these.
Surgery to correct the problem is the standard treatment and it can reduce the risk of future strokes. In people who have already had a stroke, or TIA, their risk of having another stroke within the next three years is reduced by a third after surgery.
However, the surgery itself carries some risks and around 5pc will have a stroke during the operation. The stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed.
However, as the risk of having a stroke during surgery is lower than the chances of having a stroke without surgery, the operation is usually the recommended treatment option.
After surgery, your risk of having a stroke or TIA is reduced. However, there are some steps you can take yourself to reduce your risks as well.
The patient must watch their diet after surgery, eating foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and watch their calorie intake. They must also exercise regularly.
Most people are discharged within 48 hours and can return to work between four to eight weeks after the operation. Patients are generally advised to limit physical activity for a few weeks after the surgery. This includes playing sports.