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Carotid revascularization: risks and benefits

Authors O'Brien M, Chandra A

Received 6 March 2014

Accepted for publication 10 April 2014

Published 7 July 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 403—416

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/VHRM.S48923

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5


Marlene O'Brien, Ankur Chandra

Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA

Abstract: Despite a decline during the recent decades in stroke-related death, the incidence of stroke has remained unchanged or slightly increased, and extracranial carotid artery stenosis is implicated in 20%–30% of all strokes. Medical therapy and risk factor modification are first-line therapies for all patients with carotid occlusive disease. Evidence for the treatment of patients with symptomatic carotid stenosis greater than 70% with either carotid artery stenting (CAS) or carotid endarterectomy (CEA) is compelling, and several trials have demonstrated a benefit to carotid revascularization in the symptomatic patient population. Asymptomatic carotid stenosis is more controversial, with the largest trials only demonstrating a 1% per year risk stroke reduction with CEA. Although there are sufficient data to advocate for aggressive medical therapy as the primary mode of treatment for asymptomatic carotid stenosis, there are also data to suggest that certain patient populations will benefit from a stroke risk reduction with carotid revascularization. In the United States, consensus and practice guidelines dictate that CEA is reasonable in patients with high-grade asymptomatic stenosis, a reasonable life expectancy, and perioperative risk of less than 3%. Regarding CAS versus CEA, the best-available evidence demonstrates no difference between the two procedures in early perioperative stroke, myocardial infarction, or death, and no difference in 4-year ipsilateral stroke risk. However, because of the higher perioperative risks of stroke in patients undergoing CAS, particularly in symptomatic, female, or elderly patients, it is difficult to recommend CAS over CEA except in populations with prohibitive cardiac risk, previous carotid surgery, or prior neck radiation. Current treatment paradigms are based on identifying the magnitude of perioperative risk in patient subsets and on using predictive factors to stratify patients with high-risk asymptomatic stenosis.

Keywords: carotid stenosis, carotid endarterectomy, carotid stent

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