Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Will I be awake during my carotid surgery?"
I am 43 years old and will have carotid surgery in three weeks. Will they have to put me to sleep or can I stay awake?
I assume that when you say "carotid surgery" you mean a carotid endarterectomy to remove a plaque that is causing a narrowing in the carotid artery. This usually involves putting the patient to sleep. It would be very unusual to have you be awake for this type of surgery. The carotid arteries are located in your neck (one on each side - left and right). There are a lot of nerves and blood vessels in the area of the carotid artery, and the surgery to remove the plaque involves careful and meticulous dissection of the structures in your neck to make sure no nerve or major blood vessel is injured. For this, the patient has to remain completely still and the safest way to achieve that would be by putting you to sleep. An anesthesiologist will usually send you to sleep by injecting an IV medication, after which an endotracheal tube (breathing tube) is temporarily placed to make sure you breathe during the surgery while you sleep. At the end of the surgery, as you wake up, the tube is removed and you slowly return to your awake and conscious state. Obviously the above holds true for the vast majority of patients, but each patient has to be considered individually taking account any prior surgeries, medical conditions, allergies, etc. This evaluation is usually carried out by both the surgeon and anesthesiologist. I would strongly urge you to contact your surgeon with any further questions.
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