It was first performed on a superficial femoral artery in 1946 by the Portuguese surgeon João Cid dos Santos. In 1951, E. J. Wylie, a north-american, performed it on the abdominal aorta. The first successful reconstruction of the carotid artery was performed by Carrea, Molins, and Murphy in Argentina, later in the same year.
The procedure is widely used on the carotid artery of the neck as a way to reduce the risk of stroke, particularly when the carotid artery is narrowed by more than 70%. A carotid endarterectomy may itself cause a stroke at the time of operation, which is why it is not performed prophylactically in asymptomatic patients.
Endarterectomy is also used as a supplement to a vein bypass graft to open up distal segments.
The term atherectomy is used to describe reconstruction through a catheter.