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Natural History of Asymptomatic Moderate Carotid Artery Stenosis in a Large Community-Based Cohort

Moderate carotid artery stenosis is a poorly defined risk factor for ischemic stroke. As such, practice recommendations are lacking. In this study, we describe the long-term risk of stroke in patients with moderate asymptomatic stenosis in an integrated health care system. All adult patients with asymptomatic moderate (50%-69%) internal carotid artery stenosis between 2008 and 2012 were identified, with follow-up through 2017. The primary outcome was acute ischemic stroke attributed to the ipsilateral carotid artery. Stroke rates were calculated using competing risk analysis. Secondary outcomes included disease progression, ipsilateral intervention, and long-term survival. Overall, 11 614 arteries with moderate stenosis in 9803 patients were identified. Mean age was 74.2±9.9 years with 51.4% women. Mean follow-up was 5.1±2.9 years. There were 180 ipsilateral ischemic strokes (1.6%) identified (crude annual risk, 0.31% [95% CI, 0.21%-0.41%]), of which thirty-one (17.2%) underwent subsequent intervention. Controlling for death and intervention as competing risks, the cumulative incidence of stroke was 1.2% (95% CI, 1.0%-1.4%) at 5 years and 2.0% (95% CI, 1.7%-2.4%) at 10 years. Of identified strokes, 50 (27.8%) arteries had progressed to severe stenosis or occlusion. During follow-up, there were 17 029 carotid studies performed in 5951 patients, revealing stenosis progression in 1674 (14.4%) arteries, including 1614 (13.9%) progressing to severe stenosis and 60 (0.5%) to occlusion. The mean time to stenosis progression was 2.6±2.1 years. Carotid intervention occurred in 708 arteries (6.1%). Of these, 66.1% (468/708) had progressed to severe stenosis. The overall mortality rate was 44.5%, with 10.5% of patients lost to follow-up. In this community-based sample of patients with asymptomatic moderate internal carotid artery stenosis followed for an average of 5 years, the cumulative incidence of stroke is low out to 10 years. Future research is needed to optimize management strategies for this population.

Authors: Gologorsky, Rebecca C; Lancaster, Elizabeth; Tucker, Lue-Yen; Nguyen-Huynh, Mai N; Rothenberg, Kara A; Avins, Andrew L; Kuang, Hui C; Chang, Robert W

Stroke. 2022 Sep;53(9):2838-2846. Epub 2022-06-08.

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