Cognitive Function After Carotid Artery Revascularization

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Clinical investigations designed to contrast the efficacy of carotid endarterectomy (CEA) versus best medical therapy and CEA versus carotid artery stenting (CAS) in patients with carotid artery stenosis have been based on the traditional endpoints of stroke, myocardial infarction, and death. Cognitive function is being increasingly recognized as an important outcome measure that affects patient well-being and functional status. However, it has not been evaluated systematically in the context of carotid revascularization. A decline in cognitive function could occur from microembolic ischemia during surgical dissection (CEA) or intravascular instrumentation (CAS). It could also occur from hypoperfusion during clamping (CEA) or balloon dilation (CAS). Conversely, restoring perfusion could improve cognitive dysfunction that might have occurred from a state of chronic hypoperfusion. It is still unclear whether these complex interactions ultimately result in a net improvement or a deterioration of cognitive function. Furthermore, it is not known whether the 2 methods of carotid revascularization have a differential effect on cognitive outcomes. It is becoming increasingly clear, though, that there is a positive relationship between improvement in cognition and improvement in functional outcome of patients. Vascular surgeons will be well served to remain informed and even actively engaged in the development of this field if they wish to continue providing the high-quality, well-informed care they have traditionally offered to patients with carotid stenosis.

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