Background: Carotid angioplasty (CA) has been suggested to be a safer and more cost-effective alternative to carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in the management of symptomatic severe internal carotid artery (ICA) disease.
Methods: The study was conducted as a prospective consecutive randomized trial of CEA versus CA for symptomatic severe ICA disease in a university teaching hospital. All patients were assessed before and after surgery by a neurologist. The study consisted of 23 patients with focal carotid territory symptoms and severe ICA stenosis (> 70%) who were randomized to either CEA or CA. However, only 17 had received their allocated treatment before trial suspension. CEA with patching or CA with stenting were used as interventions. The main outcome measures were death or disabling or nondisabling stroke within 30 days.
Results: All 10 CEA operations proceeded without complication, but 5 of the 7 patients who underwent CA had a stroke (P=.0034), 3 of which were disabling at 30 days.
Conclusions: After referral, the Data Monitoring Committee invoked the stopping rule and the trial was suspended. The investigators and the Ethics Committee subsequently concluded that the trial could not be restarted--even in an amended format-primarily because of problems with informed consent. We review many of the ethical dilemmas encountered in the performance of this study. If future trials do suggest a selected role for CA, it is essential that both the inclusion and the exclusion criteria are fully documented.