Magnetic resonance angiography is an accurate imaging adjunct to duplex ultrasound scan in patient selection for carotid endarterectomy

J Vasc Surg. 2000 Sep;32(3):429-38; discussion 439-40. doi: 10.1067/mva.2000.109330.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) for categorizing the severity of carotid disease relative to duplex ultrasound scan and cerebral contrast arteriography (CA) to determine if MRA imaging could replace the need for cerebral angiography in cases of indeterminate or inadequate duplex scan imaging.

Methods: Seventy-four carotid bifurcations in 40 patients undergoing 45 carotid endarterectomies from 1996 to 1998 were imaged with duplex ultrasound scan; MRA (two-dimensional neck and three-dimensional intracranial, time-of-flight technique); and biplanar, digital subtraction cerebral arteriography. Studies were blindly reviewed by one reader who used established threshold velocity criteria for the duplex scan and the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial method for MRA and CA to determine the percentage of diameter reduction of the internal carotid artery (ICA). Disease severity was grouped into four categories (< 50%, 50%-74%, 75%-99% stenosis and occlusion), and the results of MRA and duplex ultrasound scan were compared with CA.

Results: Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value for detection of > 50% ICA stenosis were 100%, 96%, 98%, and 100% for MRA and 100%, 72%, 88%, and 100% for duplex ultrasound scan, respectively; similarly, for detection of > 75% ICA stenosis values were 100%, 77%, 76%, and 100% for MRA and 90%, 74%, 72%, and 91% for duplex ultrasound scan, respectively. Both MRA and duplex ultrasound scan accurately differentiated all cases of > 95% stenosis (n = 7) from occlusion (n = 4). Short length ICA flow gaps were present on MRA in all cases of 75% to 99% stenosis and one half of cases of CA-defined 50% to 74% stenosis. In patients with 50% to 74% stenosis, the mean angiographic stenosis was significantly greater when a flow gap was present on MRA (64% +/- 6%) versus no flow gap (57% +/- 7%) (P =.04). There was overall agreement among duplex ultrasound scan, MRA, and CA in 73% of carotids imaged. Of the 24% discordant results between MRA and duplex ultrasound scan, MRA correctly predicted disease severity in all cases, and inaccurate duplex ultrasound scan results were due to overestimation in 83% of cases. The operative plan was altered by CA findings in only one patient (2%) after duplex ultrasound scan and MRA.

Conclusions: MRA can accurately categorize the severity of carotid occlusive disease. Duplex ultrasound scan facilitates patient selection for carotid endarterectomy in most cases, but adjunct use of MRA improves diagnostic accuracy for > 75% stenoses and may obviate the need for cerebral arteriography when duplex scan results are inconclusive or demonstrate borderline disease severity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotid Stenosis / classification
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnosis
  • Carotid Stenosis / surgery*
  • Endarterectomy, Carotid*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex*