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J Vasc Surg. 1994 Oct;20(4):499-508; discussion 508-10.

Critical carotid artery stenosis: diagnosis, timing of surgery, and outcome.

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Section of Vascular Surgery, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson.



Patients with critical carotid artery stenoses have been considered to be at high risk for carotid artery occlusion necessitating urgent or emergency endarterectomy once the stenosis is identified. Included in this group of patients are those with carotid string sign or atheromatous pseudoocclusion (APO). This review was conducted to determine the impact of the severity of stenosis including APO on the treatment and outcome of patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy.


The records of 203 consecutive carotid endarterectomies performed in 197 patients were reviewed in detail. Patients were stratified into a critical stenosis group (80% to 99% diameter) and noncritical stenosis group based on noninvasive vascular laboratory and carotid arteriography results. Comparisons were performed of demographic data, atherosclerotic risk factors, carotid artery disease presentation, interval between arteriography and endarterectomy, operative details, and surgical results between the critical and noncritical groups and between patients in the critical group with and without APO.


Carotid endarterectomies were performed on 91 critical carotid artery stenoses and 112 noncritical stenoses. The groups did not differ significantly with regards to demographics, risk factors, carotid artery disease presentation, mean back pressure, and operative use of shunt or patch closure. For the critical group the interval between arteriography and endarterectomy was 8.63 +/- 2.38 days compared with 9.64 +/- 2.14 days for the noncritical group (mean +/- SEM, p = 0.75). No patient in either group progressed to occlusion in the interval between arteriography and endarterectomy. Perioperative strokes occurred in two patients (2%) in the critical group and four patients (3.6%) in the noncritical group (p = 0.09). Likewise, no significant difference was demonstrated in these variables when comparing patients with critical carotid artery stenosis and APO with those without APO.


The presence of a critical carotid artery stenosis including APO did not impact on the treatment or outcome of patients requiring endarterectomy nor did it imply the need for emergency intervention to prevent thrombosis. Surgical intervention can proceed after evaluation and optimization of comorbid conditions without undue concern for interval thrombosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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