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Contemporary prevalence of carotid stenosis in patients presenting with ischaemic stroke.

Published: 2nd April 2019

Authors: S. F. Cheng, M. M. Brown, R. J. Simister, T. Richards

Background

Carotid stenosis is a common cause of ischaemic stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Despite rising recognition and centralization of stroke services there has been a decline in interventions for carotid stenosis in recent years. The aim of this study was to determine the current prevalence and management of carotid stenosis in the UK.

Method

This was a 1‐year prospective observational study of consecutive patients presenting with ischaemic stroke, TIA or ischaemic retinal artery occlusion to a central London hyperacute stroke unit. Patients with significant carotid stenosis, defined as atherosclerotic narrowing of 50 per cent or greater, underwent multidisciplinary team (MDT) discussion to determine the cause of stroke/TIA and classify carotid stenosis as symptomatic or incidental.

Results

In total, 2707 patients were seen; half had an ischaemic event and the majority had carotid imaging (1252 of 1444). Carotid stenosis of at least 50 per cent was seen in 238 (prevalence 19·0 (95 per cent c.i. 16·6 to 21·4) per cent). Patients with significant carotid stenosis were more likely to have hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes and ischaemic heart disease. Carotid stenosis was deemed symptomatic in 99 patients (7·9 (6·3 to 9·5) per cent); of these, 17 had carotid occlusion, 17 were unfit for surgery and 58 patients were referred for carotid intervention. Among 139 patients with asymptomatic stenosis, 75 had carotid stenosis ipsilateral to the stroke but, after MDT discussion, the cause was deemed to be atrial fibrillation (32), small‐vessel disease (15), another determined cause (5), or not determined owing to atypical imaging or clinical presentation.

Conclusion

Carotid stenosis is common, affecting one in five patients presenting with stroke or TIA. Careful MDT discussion may avoid unnecessary intervention and should be the standard of care.

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