Efficacy of Carotid Endarterectomy for Mild ( <50%) Symptomatic Carotid Stenosis with Unstable Plaque

World Neurosurg. 2019 Jan;121:e60-e69. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2018.09.013. Epub 2018 Sep 20.


Background: Carotid endarterectomy (CEA) is known to reduce stroke risk in patients with symptomatic, moderate to severe carotid stenosis but has no apparent impact in patients with symptomatic, mild (less than 50%) carotid stenosis. However, recent development of noninvasive imaging modalities has shown that a certain subgroup of patients are at high risk for further ischemic events despite antiplatelet therapy. This study, therefore, aimed to clarify the patients' clinical features and explore the impact of CEA for them.

Methods: This prospective cohort study included 74 patients who underwent CEA for symptomatic carotid stenosis between April 2012 and December 2016. Of these, 16 (22%) had mild (less than 50%) carotid stenosis. Their demographic, radiologic, intraoperative, and pathologic findings were precisely analyzed, and their outcome after CEA was examined for 38.5 ± 13.3 months.

Results: Of these 16 patients, 12 had already been treated with antiplatelets against previous ischemic cerebrovascular or coronary artery diseases. Plaque magnetic resonance imaging revealed that all patients had vulnerable plaque, including lipid-rich plaque (n = 6) and intraplaque hemorrhage (n = 10). Intraoperative observations confirmed this. Histologic analysis revealed that inflammatory cells and fragile angiogenesis were widely found in the specimens. Only 1 patient experienced transient (less than 30 days) neurologic deficit after CEA, and none of them repeated cerebrovascular events during the follow-up period.

Conclusions: It is not rare the patients who are at high risk for subsequent ischemic events because of vulnerable plaque despite mild (less than 50%) carotid stenosis. Magnetic resonance imaging is quite useful to noninvasively detect such vulnerable plaque. CEA is a promising procedure to treat these patients.

Keywords: Carotid endarterectomy; Carotid stenosis; MRI; Mild stenosis; Unstable plaque.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotid Stenosis / drug therapy
  • Carotid Stenosis / surgery*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography / methods
  • Endarterectomy, Carotid / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimodal Imaging
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / surgery*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors