2017 Volume 24 Issue 4 Pages 373-387
Carotid artery stenosis is responsible for between 10-20% of all ischaemic strokes. Interventions, such as carotid endarterectomy and carotid stenting, effectively reduce the risk of stroke in selected individuals. This review describes the history of carotid interventions, and summarises reliable evidence on the safety and efficacy of these interventions gained from large randomised clinical trials.
Early trials comparing carotid endarterectomy to medical therapy alone in symptomatic patients, and asymptomatic patients, demonstrated that endarterectomy halved the risk of stroke and perioperative death in these two unique populations. The absolute risk reduction was smaller in the asymptomatic carotid trials, consistent with their lower absolute stroke risk. More recent trials in symptomatic patients, suggest that carotid stenting has similar long term durability to carotid endarterectomy, but possibly has higher procedural hazards dominated by non-disabling strokes. The Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial-2, along with individual patient data meta-analysis of all asymptomatic trials, will provide reliable evidence for the choice of intervention in asymptomatic patients in whom a decision has been made for carotid revascularisation. Given improvements in effective cardiovascular medical therapy, in particular lipid-lowering medications, there is renewed uncertainty as to whether carotid interventions still provide meaningful net reductions in stroke risk in asymptomatic populations. Four large trials in Europe and the US are currently underway, and are expected to report long-term results in the next decade.
It is essential that surgeons, interventionalists, and physicians continue to randomise large numbers of patients from around the world to clarify current uncertainty around the management of asymptomatic carotid stenosis.