Carotid Endarterectomy Recovery

What to expect when you leave the hospital

Most of the time you will be discharged from the hospital on the day after your surgery. It is not uncommon to have some redness and swelling in the area where you had your surgery. There is also some degree of discomfort that can be controlled with pain medication like Lortab or Vicodin (which has Tylenol in it), plain Tylenol, Ibuprofen or Naprosyn.

You should call the doctor immediately

  • if your neck becomes so swollen that it is difficult to breathe
  • if the swelling increases suddenly (over a few minutes)
  • if you have any symptoms of arm or leg weakness, numbness, tingling or paralysis on the opposite side from the surgery
  • If you develop a headache associated with an elevated blood pressure greater than 150/90
  • If your blood pressure is elevated greater than 160/90 after you have taken your normal blood pressure medicines, even if you do not have a headache
You should also notify the doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms of infection, including:
  • redness that gets worse rather than better,
  • drainage from the wound that is like pus, and
  • fever greater than 100°.
Your surgical site will probably have steri-strips that will fall off on their own in about a week. If you have staples, they should be removed in the office by the Nurse within 3-5 days. Once the incision line has healed completely, using a vitamin E ointment or a moisturizing cream may help reduce scarring. You should have a follow up appointment with the doctor following surgery and you may need to call the office to arrange an appointment time.

You may notice some numbness along your jaw line, or even some strange sensations with swallowing after surgery. This is not uncommon and often will resolve within a few weeks after surgery. Sometimes the numbness can last for months, and in some cases, will not go away. This is due to the unavoidable disruption of the nerves along the carotid arteries.

Your activity restrictions are minimal. You may shower 48 hours after surgery, and pat the incision line dry. You should use a band-aid over the drain hole until it has completely healed. If you drive, you may resume driving yourself one week following surgery. Avoid turning your head abruptly or severely prior to this time. You should also avoid lifting more than 10 pounds. After one week, you may gently begin to return to your normal range of motion.

You should expect to take one enteric-coated aspirin (EC aspirin) every day from now on unless specifically instructed to do otherwise. Taking one aspirin a day will not only help the artery heal, it will also help the artery stay open and reduce the chances that you will need additional vascular surgery in the future.

Appearance within normal limits following carotid endarterectomy surgery:

Carotid Endarterectomy image

Carotid Endarterectomy

Carotid Endarterectomy