Recovering from carotid endarterectomy 

After a carotid endarterectomy, you'll usually be moved to the recovery area of the operating theatre or, in some cases, a high dependency unit (HDU).

An HDU is a specialist unit for people who need to be kept under close observation after surgery, usually because they have high blood pressure and need to be closely monitored.

After surgery, your breathing and heart rate will be monitored to ensure you're recovering well.

You may have some discomfort in your neck around where the incision was made. This can usually be controlled with painkillers. You may also experience numbness around the wound, which should disappear after a while.

Most people are able to eat and drink a few hours after having surgery. You'll usually be able to leave hospital and return home within 48 hours.

Wound care

The wound on your neck will be closed with stitches, which may need to be removed at a later date. Your surgeon will be able to advise you about this. Sometimes dissolvable stitches or skin glue are used instead.

Your surgeon will also be able to give you advice about caring for your wound. This will usually be a simple matter of keeping it clean using mild soap and warm water.

You may be left with a small scar running from the angle of your jaw to the top of your breastbone. The scar is usually about 7-10cm (2.5-4 inches) long and fades to a fine line after two or three months.

Driving

Your GP will be able to advise you about when it's safe to drive after surgery – usually when you can safely carry out an emergency stop. For most people, this is between two to three weeks after the operation.

If you've had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), you won't be allowed to drive for a month afterwards. If you've fully recovered, you don't need to inform the DVLA unless you drive a lorry or a bus for a living.

Work and exercise

Most people are able to return to work three to four weeks after having a carotid endarterectomy. Your surgeon or GP will be able to advise you further about returning to work.

You may be advised to limit physical activity for a few weeks after having surgery. This includes manual labour and playing sports. If your job involves manual labour, you should only perform light duties until you've fully recovered.  

Page last reviewed: 20/08/2015

Next review due: 01/08/2018