Carotid endarterectomy should not be based on consensus statement duplex velocity criteria

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Randomized trials support carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in asymptomatic patients with ≥60% internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis. The widely referenced Society for Radiologists in Ultrasound Consensus Statement on carotid duplex ultrasound (CDUS) imaging indicates that an ICA peak systolic velocity (PSV) ≥230 cm/s corresponds to a ≥70% ICA stenosis, leading to the potential conclusion that asymptomatic patients with an ICA PSV ≥230 cm/s would benefit from CEA. Our goal was to determine the natural history stroke risk of asymptomatic patients who might have undergone CEA based on consensus statement PSV of ≥230 cm/s but instead were treated medically based on more conservative CDUS imaging criteria.


All patients who underwent CDUS imaging at our institution during 2009 were retrospectively reviewed. The year 2009 was chosen to ensure extended follow-up. Asymptomatic patients were included if their ICA PSV was ≥230 cm/s but less than what our laboratory considers a ≥80% stenosis by CDUS imaging (PSV ≥430 cm/s, end-diastolic velocity ≥151 cm/s, or ICA/common carotid artery PSV ratio ≥7.5). Study end points included freedom from transient ischemic attack (TIA), freedom from any stroke, freedom from carotid-etiology stroke, and freedom from revascularization.


Criteria for review were met by 327 patients. Mean follow-up was 4.3 years, with 85% of patients having >3-year follow-up. Four unheralded strokes occurred during follow-up at <1, 17, 25, and 30 months that were potentially attributable to the index carotid artery. Ipsilateral TIA occurred in 17 patients. An additional 12 strokes occurred that appeared unrelated to ipsilateral carotid disease, including hemorrhagic events, contralateral, and cerebellar strokes. Revascularization was undertaken in 59 patients, 1 for stroke, 12 for TIA, and 46 for asymptomatic disease. Actuarial freedom from carotid-etiology stroke was 99.7%, 98.4%, and 98.4% at 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively. Freedom from TIA was 98%, 96%, and 95%, freedom from any stroke was 99%, 96%, and 93%, and freedom from revascularization was 95%, 86%, and 81% at 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively.


Patients with intermediate asymptomatic carotid stenosis (ICA PSV 230–429 cm/s) do well with medical therapy when carefully monitored and intervened upon using conservative CDUS criteria. Furthermore, a substantial number of patients would undergo unnecessary CEA if consensus statement CDUS thresholds are used to recommend surgery. Current velocity threshold recommendations should be re-evaluated, with potentially important implications for upcoming clinical trials.

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