Is general anaesthesia preferable to conscious sedation in the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke with intra-arterial mechanical thrombectomy? A review of the literature

Neuroradiology. 2013 Jan;55(1):93-100. doi: 10.1007/s00234-012-1084-y. Epub 2012 Aug 26.


Introduction: Intra-arterial mechanical thrombectomy (IAMT) is an endovascular technique that allows for the acute retrieval of intravascular thrombi and is increasingly being used for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke (AIS). There are currently two anaesthetic options during IAMT: general anaesthesia (GA) and conscious sedation (CS). The decision to use GA versus CS is the source of controversy, as it requires careful balance between patient pain, movement and airway protection whilst minimising time delay and haemodynamic fluctuations. This review examines and summarises the evidence for the use of GA versus CS in the treatment of AIS by IAMT.

Methods: Studies were identified using systematic bibliographic searches. The five applicable studies were analysed with reference to overall outcomes and the key parameters that govern the decision to use GA or CS. The key parameters included the impact of GA and CS on pain, complication rates, time delays, airway protection and haemodynamic stability.

Results: Several retrospective analyses have shown that the use of GA is associated with adverse outcomes.

Conclusion: Intra-arterial mechanical thrombectomy under general anaesthesia is associated with poor outcomes in observational studies. It is reasonable to offer conscious sedation as the preferred option where adverse patient factors such as agitation are lacking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anesthesia, General / mortality*
  • Brain Ischemia / mortality*
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy*
  • Conscious Sedation / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Mechanical Thrombolysis / mortality*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / mortality*
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome