Blood flows to the brain through vessels in the neck called the carotid arteries. Sometimes these arteries can become narrow due to a build up of cholesterol plaque on the walls of the carotid artery (similar to blockage in the arteries in the heart). Some of the warning signs you may experience if these arteries are becoming narrow include numbness of an arm or leg, loss of vision in one eye, slurring of speech or sudden changes in thought processes. These symptoms may only last a few minutes or a few hours. If these symptoms are ignored, you may continue on to have a stroke.
When these vessels are critically narrowed or you begin to experience some of the above symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you have a carotid endarterectomy. You will be asleep during the one to two hours that it takes to complete this surgery. You will have an incision along the side of your neck and possibly a small drain from the lower part of your neck. Most patients will spend their first hospital day in the Intensive Care Unit as a precaution. The average hospital stay is two to three days with a total recovery period of two to three weeks. After this recovery time you may resume your normal activities without limitations.