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Proof from randomized controlled trials that carotid endarterectomy (CEA) is efficacious in stroke prevention has resulted in a large resurgence of its use in recent years. We wished to determine if patients in our region were being selected and treated with complication rates consistent with the randomized trials.
We have completed four audits of CEAs performed in our region since 1994, each followed by feed-back of results to the participating surgeons. Operations for > 70% symptomatic stenosis were considered appropriate, those for 50%-69% symptomatic and > 60% asymptomatic stenosis were considered uncertain and all others, including those in medically or neurologically unstable patients, were designated inappropriate. In part 4, the referral source and nature of the patients was also determined.
Part 1 (April 1994 - September 1995) found that of 291 CEAs performed 33% were appropriate, 48% were uncertain and 18% were inappropriate, and 40% of patients who underwent CEA were asymptomatic. In part 2 (September 1996 - September 1997) appropriate indications significantly improved to 49% of 184 CEAs (P=0.005), uncertain indications remained nearly the same at 47%, inappropriate indications fell to 4% (P=0.00002), and asymptomatic patients remained at 40%. The results of part 3 (October 1997 - October 1998) remained nearly the same as part 2 (249 CEAs, 47% appropriate, 51% uncertain, 2% inappropriate, 45% asymptomatic). Part 4 (October 1999 - October 2000) results were significantly better than part 3, appropriate indications increasing from 47% to 58% of 222 CEAs (P=0.02), and an elimination of inappropriate operations (P=0.03). Stroke and death complications declined over the study period from an overall rate of 5.2% in part 1 to 2.3% in part 4. In part 4 the majority of patients (69%) were referred to surgeons directly from general practitioners, including 58 (73%) of the 80 asymptomatic patients who underwent CEA.
Regular auditing and feedback of results and information to surgeons has resulted in significant and continued improvements in the surgical performance of CEAin our region. Since the majority of patients are referred directly to surgeons by general practitioners, it is important that this group of physicians be familiar with current CEA guidelines.
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