Revisiting the appropriateness of carotid endarterectomy

Ethan A. Halm, Mark R. Chassin, Stanley Tuhrim, Larry H. Hollier, A. John Popp, Enrico Ascher, Herbert Dardik, Glenn Faust, Thomas S. Riles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - In the 1980s, carotid endarterectomy was controversial because proof of efficacy was lacking, complication rates were high, and one third of cases were reported to be inappropriate. Since publication of several randomized controlled trials (RCTs), rates of carotid endarterectomy have doubled nationwide. This study assesses the appropriateness and use of carotid endarterectomy since publication of the RCTs. Methods - Using the literature, we developed a list of 1557 mutually exclusive indications for carotid endarterectomy and asked a panel of national experts to rate the appropriateness of each indication using the RAND methodology. We used these ratings to assess appropriateness in a sample of 2124 patients who underwent the procedure in 1997 to 1998 in 6 hospitals. We also analyzed the reasons for the procedure and rates of death, stroke, and myocardial infarction within 30 days of surgery. Results - Overall, 84.9% of operations were done for appropriate reasons, 4.5% for uncertain reasons, and 10.6% for inappropriate reasons. Among procedures considered inappropriate, the most common reasons were high comorbidity (46.6%) and minimal stenosis (27.1%). Overall, 72.5% were asymptomatic, 17.4% had a carotid transient ischemic attack, and 10.1% had a stroke. The 30-day rate of death or stroke was 5.47% for symptomatic patients and 2.26% for asymptomatic patients. Among patients having combined carotid and coronary artery bypass graft surgery, the rate was 10.32%. The complication rate in asymptomatic patients with high comorbidity was 5.56%. Conclusions - Since the RCTs, rates of overuse appear to have fallen considerably, although they are still significant. A major shift has occurred toward operating on asymptomatic patients. Although overall complication rates were low, rates among asymptomatic patients with high comorbidity exceeded recommended thresholds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1464-1471
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


  • Carotid endarterectomy
  • Complications
  • Health services misuse
  • Outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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