Background and objectives: Ischemic stroke represents the third leading cause of death and the most common cause of permanent disability in the United States. Carotid endarterectomy has been widely utilized as a procedure to reduce the risk of stroke and represents the most commonly performed peripheral arterial surgery. This cooperative project was initiated to assess the appropriateness of carotid endarterectomies performed on Medicare beneficiaries and the postoperative outcomes (mortality and stroke) in these patients.
Methods: Retrospective review was performed on the inpatient medical records of 774 patients who underwent 813 carotid endarterectomy procedures in eight hospitals during calendar years 1993 and 1994. Medicare claims data were also analyzed for all carotid endarterectomies performed in Oklahoma during calendar years 1992 through 1995.
Results: A history of transient ischemic attack or stroke in the distribution of the operated carotid artery was documented in 57% of the cases. The majority of patients had preoperative ultrasound imaging of the carotid arteries and a preoperative angiogram was performed before 96% of the procedures. Accepted indications for the surgery were documented for 98% of the procedures. Stroke or death within 30 days of the date of the carotid endarterectomy occurred after 4.9% (0-8.8% by hospital) of the procedures.
Conclusions: This project demonstrated considerable variation between hospitals in the outcomes of patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy and the potential for improved care of patients with regard to discharge planning, education, and use of anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications postoperatively.