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Stroke. 2000 Aug;31(8):1824-8.

Silent cerebral ischemia detected by diffusion-weighted MRI after carotid endarterectomy.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of Berne, Inselspital, DKNS, Switzerland.



Small emboli arising from a friable plaque during carotid endarterectomy (CEA) constitute an important risk of perioperative ischemic complications. To evaluate the incidence and significance of silent cerebral ischemic lesions of embolic origin after CEA, we prospectively examined a series of surgical patients with high-grade carotid stenosis by using diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI). We also tried to correlate postoperative ischemic lesions with the occurrence of sonographic cerebral embolic signals, the presence of plaque ulcerations, and the use of intraoperative shunting.


Of a consecutive series of 53 patients undergoing elective CEA for high-grade carotid stenosis, 48 patients with unchanged postoperative neurological status were prospectively studied with DWI of the brain the day before and the day after the operation. The magnetic resonance images were analyzed by 2 neuroradiologists blinded to the clinical result of the operation. Any new hyperintense signal was interpreted as a postoperative ischemic lesion.


Forty-six (95.8%) of 48 patients had unchanged postoperative brain DWI. In 2 patients (4.2%), a new single asymptomatic hyperintense signal was observed on the side of the operation. Both lesions were small and presumably of embolic origin. They were not related to sonographic embolic signals, plaque ulcerations, or intraoperative shunting.


These results suggest that the incidence of silent ischemic brain lesions of embolic origin after CEA is low and does not correlate with the occurrence of intraoperative sonographic microemboli. They confirm that CEA is a safe procedure that carries a low risk of postoperative cerebral events.

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