Purpose: To evaluate the usefulness of provocative testing with hypotensive challenge during balloon test occlusion of the internal carotid artery before carotid sacrifice and to correlate tolerance of balloon test occlusion with clinical outcome after carotid artery sacrifice.
Methods: Forty-seven consecutive cases of balloon test occlusions performed at our institution during the past 4 years were retrospectively reviewed. Occlusion was performed under normotensive conditions with distal perfusion of heparinized saline for 20 minutes, or until a deficit was perceived. If 20 minutes of normotension was tolerated, hypotension was induced to two thirds of mean arterial pressure for 20 minutes, or until a deficit was perceived.
Results: Of 47 patients, 4 (9%) had deficits at normotension. Of the remaining 43 patients, 9 (21%) had deficits at hypotension. One patient with a positive hypotensive test occlusion underwent carotid artery sacrifice after extracranial-intracranial bypass without sequelae. In one of the 19 patients who clinically tolerated test occlusion with hypotension and had carotid sacrifice (surgical ligation of the intracranial carotid artery), a mild embolic stroke developed, probably from the giant carotid wall aneurysm. This patient fully recovered; MR imaging showed mild changes consistent with emboli distal to the aneurysm. Symptomatic complications were noted in 2 (4%) patients, and asymptomatic arterial dissections were noted in 3 (6%) patients.
Conclusion: Balloon test occlusion with hypotensive challenge is safe, economical, and greatly increases the sensitivity of balloon test occlusion. The predictive value of a negative test is high. However, to determine the test's specificity compared with quantitative imaging, controlled trials will be necessary.