Object: Executive functions are crucial for organizing and integrating cognitive processes. While some studies have assessed the effect of carotid artery stenting (CAS) on cognitive functioning, results have been conflicting. The object of this study was to assess the effect of CAS on cognitive status, with special interest on executive functions, among patients with severe asymptomatic internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis.
Methods: The authors prospectively assessed the neuropsychological status of 20 patients with unilateral asymptomatic extracranial ICA stenosis of 60% or more by using a comprehensive assessment battery focused on executive functions before and after CAS. Individual raw scores on neuropsychological tests were converted into z scores by normalizing for age, sex, and years of education. The authors compared baseline and 3-month postoperative neuropsychological scores by using Wilcoxon signed-rank tests.
Results: The mean preoperative cognitive performance was within normal ranges on all variables. All patients underwent a successful CAS procedure. Executive function scores improved after CAS, relative to baseline performance as follows: set shifting (Trail-Making Test Part B: -0.75 ± 1.43 vs -1.2 ± 1.48, p = 0.003) and processing speed (digit symbol coding: -0.66 ± 0.85 vs -0.97 ± 0.82, p = 0.035; and symbol search: -0.24 ± 1.32 vs -0.56 ± 0.77, p = 0.049). The benefit of CAS for working memory was marginally significant (digit span backward: -0.41 ± 0.61 vs -0.58 ± 0.76, p = 0.052). Both verbal (immediate Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test: 0.35 ± 1.04 vs -0.22 ± 0.82, p = 0.011) and visual (delayed Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure: 0.27 ± 1.26 vs -0.22 ± 1.01, p = 0.024) memory improved after CAS.
Conclusions: The authors found a beneficial effect on executive function and memory 3 months after CAS among their prospective cohort of consecutive patients with unilateral and asymptomatic ICA stenosis of 60% or more.