Carotid endarterectomy is a commonly performed operation to prevent stroke in patients who have asymptomatic or symptomatic internal carotid artery atherosclerotic stenosis. Carotid angioplasty and stenting has also been advocated for treatment of these patients. In this article, we address a number of questions for which a review of available data will advance our understanding of the role of carotid endarterectomy in stroke prevention. These include the following: Are carotid endarterectomy and carotid angioplasty and stenting equivalent procedures for the treatment of carotid artery disease? Which patients should be deemed at high risk for carotid endarterectomy? Should carotid endarterectomy be an urgent procedure in symptomatic patients with severe internal carotid artery stenosis? Finally, what is the role of carotid endarterectomy in asymptomatic patients? We also review the senior author’s personal experience with >2000 consecutive carotid endarterectomies, with special attention to his present approach to this operation. We believe that carotid endarterectomy, in experienced hands, is a minimally invasive operation that remains the procedure of choice for most patients with carotid artery disease who will benefit from invasive treatment.
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