Objectives: Neurological deficit defines the outcome of Carotid Endarterectomy (CEA) that is mainly caused by cerebral ischemia. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is a sensitive method for demonstrating even small ischemic lesions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency, clinical significance and course of ischemic lesions after CEA using serial DWI.
Methods: DWI was performed within 1 day before and after CEA in 88 patients. Postoperative lesions were analyzed by their quantity, volume and distribution. To differentiate temporary ischemia from definite cerebral infarction (blood brain barrier disruption) all patients with a positive postoperative DWI were reexamined with contrast-enhanced T1-MRI 7-10 days after the procedure. All patients were examined by a neurologist within 2 days before and after CEA.
Results: Two patients showed a postoperative neurological deficit. Postoperative DWI revealed ipsilateral ischemic lesions in 15 patients. In seven of these patients a brain infarction was diagnosed on the T1-MRI during follow-up. A significant correlation between the number of DWI lesions (p=0.031) as well as the volume of DWI lesions (p=0.023) and definite infarction was found. Symptomatic patients preoperatively showed significantly more DWI lesions (p=0.036) and cerebral infarcts (p=0.003).
Conclusion: DWI is a sensitive method of demonstrating ischemic events after CEA. The number and volume of DWI lesions after CEA are highly predictive of brain infarction.