Carotid surgeries are a group of procedures done to treat the conditions of the carotid artery. Of these, the most common one is carotid endarterectomy, a surgery to treat carotid artery disease. Carotid arteries are the main arteries that carry oxygen as well as blood to the brain. These arteries become narrowed in carotid artery disease, which reduces the blood flow to the brain and could result in a stroke.
While performing a carotid endarterectomy, the surgeon removes the plaque that builds up inside the carotid artery via an incision on the side of the neck over the affected carotid artery. The affected artery is then opened up, followed by the removal of the plaque. Then the artery is stitched back together to restore the normal flow of blood to the brain. This procedure is executed under local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia.
Atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries, causes the narrowing of the carotid arteries due to the build-up of plaque in the artery's inner lining, which can affect arteries throughout the body. The composition of plaque is substances like cellular waste products, fibrin, cholesterol, and calcium. Carotid artery disease is in many ways similar to coronary artery disease.
The brain demands a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen to function properly. Even a brief break in the supply of blood causes the neurons to die, leading to various health problems. When the narrowing of the carotid arteries is severe enough to cause blockage of the blood flow or there is dislodgement of a piece of plaque that blocks the blood flow to the brain, a stroke may occur. Sometimes a mini-stroke or transient ischaemic attack may occur, which is self-limiting and whose symptoms last for only a few hours.
Mild forms of carotid artery disease may be asymptomatic as the accumulation of plaque may not be severe enough to block the blood flow. An artery whose blood flow is blocked partially does not lead to the formation of symptoms.