Background: Duplex ultrasound is widely used for the diagnosis of internal carotid artery stenosis. Standard duplex ultrasound criteria for the grading of internal carotid artery stenosis do not exist; thus, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the relation between the degree of internal carotid artery stenosis by duplex ultrasound criteria and degree of stenosis by angiography.
Methods: Data were gathered from Medline from January 1966 to January 2003, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, ACP Journal Club, UpToDate, reference lists, and authors' files. Inclusion criteria were the comparison of color duplex ultrasound results with angiography by the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial method; peer-reviewed publications, and >/=10 adults.
Results: Variables extracted included internal carotid artery peak systolic velocity, internal carotid artery end diastolic velocity, internal carotid artery/common carotid artery peak systolic velocity ratio, sensitivity and specificity of duplex ultrasound scanning for internal carotid artery stenosis by angiography. The Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy (STARD) criteria were used to assess study quality. Sensitivity and specificity for duplex ultrasound criteria were combined as weighted means by using a random effects model. The threshold of peak systolic velocity >/=130 cm/s is associated with sensitivity of 98% (95% confidence intervals [CI], 97% to 100%) and specificity of 88% (95% CI, 76% to 100%) in the identification of angiographic stenosis of >/=50%. For the diagnosis of angiographic stenosis of >/=70%, a peak systolic velocity >/=200 cm/s has a sensitivity of 90% (95% CI, 84% to 94%) and a specificity of 94% (95% CI, 88% to 97%). For each duplex ultrasound threshold, measurement properties vary widely between laboratories, and the magnitude of the variation is clinically important. The heterogeneity observed in the measurement properties of duplex ultrasound may be caused by differences in patients, study design, equipment, techniques or training.
Conclusions: Clinicians need to be aware of the limitations of duplex ultrasound scanning when making management decisions.