Carotid artery disease and stroke during coronary artery bypass: a critical review of the literature

Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2002 Apr;23(4):283-94. doi: 10.1053/ejvs.2002.1609.


Objectives: to determine the role of carotid artery disease in the pathophysiology of stroke after coronary artery bypass (CABG).

Design: systematic review of the literature.

Results: the risk of stroke after CABG was 2% and remained unchanged between 1970-2000. Two-thirds occurred after day 1 and 23% died. 91% of screened CABG patients had no significant carotid disease and had a <2% risk of peri-operative stroke. Stroke risk increased to 3% in predominantly asymptomatic patients with a unilateral 50-99% stenosis, 5% in those with bilateral 50-99% stenoses and 7-11% in patients with carotid occlusion. Significant predictive factors for post-CABG stroke included; (i) carotid bruit (OR 3.6, 95% CI 2.8-4.6), (ii) prior stroke/TIA (OR 3.6, 95% CI 2.7-4.9) and (iii) severe carotid stenosis/occlusion (OR 4.3, 95% CI 3.2-5.7). However, the systematic review indicated that 50% of stroke sufferers did not have significant carotid disease and 60% of territorial infarctions on CT scan/autopsy could not be attributed to carotid disease alone.

Conclusions: carotid disease is an important aetiological factor in the pathophysiology of post-CABG stroke. However, even assuming that prophylactic carotid endarterectomy carried no additional risk, it could only ever prevent about 40-50% of procedural strokes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Artery Diseases / complications*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / surgery*
  • Coronary Artery Bypass*
  • Endarterectomy, Carotid
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Time Factors