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J Vasc Surg. 2011 Mar;53(3):622-7; discussion 627-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2010.09.016. Epub 2010 Dec 3.

Urgent carotid endarterectomy to prevent recurrence and improve neurologic outcome in mild-to-moderate acute neurologic events.

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Vascular Surgery Division, Department of Surgery Paride Stefanini, Policlinico Umberto I, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.



This study evaluated the safety and benefit of urgent carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in patients with carotid disease and an acute stable neurologic event.


The study involved patients with acute neurologic impairment, defined as ≥ 4 points on the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) evaluation related to a carotid stenosis ≥ 50% who underwent urgent CEA. Preoperative workup included neurologic assessment with the NIHSS on admission or immediately before surgery and at discharge, carotid duplex scanning, transcranial Doppler ultrasound imaging, and head computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. End points were perioperative (30-day) neurologic mortality, significant NIHSS score improvement or worsening (defined as a variation ≥ 4), and hemorrhagic or ischemic neurologic recurrence. Patients were evaluated according to their NIHSS score on admission (4-7 or ≥ 8), clinical and demographic characteristics, timing of surgery (before or after 6 hours), and presence of brain infarction on neuroimaging.


Between January 2005 and December 2009, 62 CEAs were performed at a mean of 34.2 ± 50.2 hours (range, 2-280 hours) after the onset of symptoms. No neurologic mortality nor significant NIHSS score worsening was detected. The NIHSS score decreased in all but four patients, with no new ischemic lesions detected. The mean NIHSS score was 7.05 ± 3.41 on admission and 3.11 ± 3.62 at discharge in the entire group (P < .01). Patients with an NIHSS score of ≥ 8 on admission had a bigger score reduction than those with a lower NIHSS score (NIHSS 4-7; mean 4.95 ± 1.03 preoperatively vs 1.31 ± 1.7 postoperatively, NIHSS ≥ 8 10.32 ± 1.94 vs 4.03 ± 3.67; P < .001).


In patients with acute neurologic event, a high NIHSS score does not contraindicate early surgery. To date, guidelines recommend treatment of symptomatic carotid stenosis ≤ 2 weeks from onset of symptoms to minimize the neurologic recurrence. Our results suggest that minimizing the time for intervention not only reduces the risk of recurrence but can also improve neurologic outcome.

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