Purpose: This study was undertaken to assess the natural history of carotid artery stenosis in patients undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) at a Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Methods: Between January 1989 and August 1993, all patients undergoing CPB were offered preoperative carotid artery ultrasound screening as part of an investigative protocol. Patients were monitored in-hospital for the occurrence of perioperative neurologic deficit.
Results: A total of 582 patients underwent carotid artery ultrasound screening. Greater than 50% stenosis or occlusion of one or both internal carotid arteries was present in 130 patients (22%), with 80% or greater stenosis or occlusion of one or both arteries present in 70 patients (12%). In-hospital stroke or death occurred in 12 (2.1%) and 36 (6.2%) patients, respectively. Of the 12 strokes, five were global and seven were hemispheric in distribution. Of the five patients who had global events, none had evidence of carotid artery stenosis. However, of the seven patients who had hemispheric events, five had significant 50% or greater stenosis or occlusion of the internal carotid artery ipsilateral to the hemispheric stroke. Therefore the presence of carotid artery stenosis or occlusion was significantly associated with hemispheric stroke (no stenosis 0.34% vs stenosis 3.8%; p = 0.0072). Furthermore, the risk of hemispheric stroke in patients with unilateral 80% to 99% stenosis, bilateral 50% to 99% stenosis, or unilateral occlusion with contralateral 50% or greater stenosis was 5.3% (4 of 75). No strokes occurred in patients with unilateral 50% to 79% stenosis (n = 52).
Conclusions: It is concluded that carotid atherosclerosis is a risk factor for hemispheric stroke in patients undergoing CPB.