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Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 1998 Jun;15(6):528-31.

Role of surgical techniques and operative findings in cranial and cervical nerve injuries during carotid endarterectomy.

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Unit of Vascular Surgery, Policlinico Monteluce, Perugia, Italy.



To establish the incidence of cranial and cervical nerve injuries during CEA and their relationship to different surgical techniques and operative findings.


A prospective study.


From January 1994 to April 1995, 187 consecutive patients undergoing 190 CEAs were evaluated. Pre- and postoperative cranial and cervical nerve assessments were carried out by a single otolaryngologist, blinded to the operative technique and findings. Deficits lasting more than 12 months were defined as permanent. Logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate the influence of surgical technique, type of anaesthesia, neck haematoma, and plaque extension on the onset of nerve injuries.


Postoperatively, nerve lesions were identified in 51 CEAs (27%) and non-neurological injuries (hemilaryngeal ecchymosis or oedema) causing postoperative dysphonia were present in 80 CEAs (42%). All non-neurological injuries were transient and 98% disappeared within 1 month of surgery. Thirteen (7%) nerve lesions were permanent, but none were disabling. Vagus nerve lesions were significantly associated with long (> 2 cm) carotid plaque (OR = 3.5; CI 1.09-12.37; p = 0.03). Cervical branch lesions were associated with the presence of neck haematoma (OR = 1.9; CI 0.7-4.7; p = 0.05). The incidence of single cranial nerve injuries was higher in patch (OR = 2.7) and eversion (OR = 1.9) procedures than in primary closure. Multiple deficits (2 or more) were most frequent in eversion CEAs (OR = 2.8) and in cases complicated by neck haematoma (OR = 3.8).


Cranial and cervical nerve lesions during CEA are common. However, our data showed that the majority of local complications are related to transient hemilaryngeal ecchymosis or oedema and, when permanent, are neither clinically relevant nor disabling at 1 year of follow up. Carotid plaque extension and neck haematoma appear to increase the incidence of cranial and cervical nerve lesions during CEA.

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