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Carotid Endarterectomy: A Review

  • J. Max Findlay (a1), B. Elaine Marchak (a2), David M. Pelz (a3) and Thomas E. Feasby (a4)



Since the validation of carotid endarterectomy (CEA) as an effective means of stroke prevention, there has been renewed interest in its best indications and methods, as well as in how it compares to carotid angioplasty and stenting (CAS). This review examines these topics, as well as the investigation of carotid stenosis and the role of auditing and reporting CEAresults.


Brain imaging with CTor MRI should be obtained in patients considered for CEA, in order to document infarction and rule out mass lesions. Carotid investigation begins with ultrasound and, if results agree with subsequent, good-quality MRAor CTangiography, treatment can be planned and catheter angiography avoided. An equally acceptable approach is to proceed directly from ultrasound to catheter angiography, which is still the gold-standard in carotid artery assessment.


Appropriate patients for CEA are those symptomatic with transient ischemic attacks or nondisabling stroke due to 70-99% carotid stenosis; the maximum allowable stroke and death rate being 6%. Uncertain candidates for CEA are those with 50 - 69% symptomatic stenosis, and those with asymptomatic stenosis ≥ 60% but, if selected carefully on the basis of additional risk factors (related to both the carotid plaque and certain patient characteristics), some will benefit from surgery. Asymptomatic patients will only benefit if surgery can be provided with exceptionally low major complication rates (3% or less). Inappropriate patients are those with less than 50% symptomatic or 60% asymptomatic stenosis, and those with unstable medical or neurological conditions.


Carotid endarterectomy can be performed with either regional or general anaesthesia and, for the latter, there are a number of monitoring techniques available to assess cerebral perfusion during carotid cross-clamping. While monitoring cannot be considered mandatory and no single monitoring technique has emerged as being clearly superior, EEG is most commonly used. “Eversion” endarterectomy is a variation in surgical technique, and there is some evidence that more widely practiced patch closure may reduce the acute risk of operative stroke and the longer-term risk of recurrent stenosis.

Carotid angioplasty and stenting:

Experience with this endovascular and less invasive procedure grows, and its technology continues to evolve. Some experienced therapists have reported excellent results in case series and a number of randomized trials are now underway comparing CAS to CEA. However, at this time it is premature to incorporate CAS into routine practice replacing CEA.


It has been shown that auditing of CEA indications and results with regular feed-back to the operating surgeons can significantly improve the performance of this operation. Carotid endarterectomy auditing is recommended on both local and regional levels.

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Carotid Endarterectomy: A Review

  • J. Max Findlay (a1), B. Elaine Marchak (a2), David M. Pelz (a3) and Thomas E. Feasby (a4)


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