Should We Screen This Patient for Carotid Artery Stenosis?: Grand Rounds Discussion From Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

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In July 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a clinical guideline on screening for asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis. The guideline recommended against screening in asymptomatic adults, based primarily on the results of 3 large randomized trials (grade D recommendation). The principal screening test was carotid ultrasonography, and the intervention in the 3 trials was carotid endarterectomy for patients with stenosis exceeding 50% to 60%. In a meta-analysis, carotid endarterectomy reduced rates of 1) perioperative stroke, death, or subsequent ipsilateral stroke and 2) perioperative stroke, death, or any subsequent stroke. The corresponding absolute risk differences were –2.0% (95% CI, –3.3% to –0.7%) and –3.5% (CI, –5.1% to –1.8%), respectively. However, perioperative stroke and death were substantially less common among the 3 randomized trials than in contemporaneous cohort studies (1.9% vs. 3.3%). In addition to stroke or death in patients receiving carotid endarterectomy, a harm of screening included the risk for angiography prompted by abnormal results on carotid ultrasonography. In this article, 2 discussants address the risks and benefits of screening for carotid artery disease as well as how to apply the guideline to an individual patient who is deciding whether to be screened.

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