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The Journal of Cardiovascular Surgery 2009 December;50(6):715-25

Copyright © 2009 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Invasive and non-invasive modalities of imaging carotid stenosis

Tang T. Y. 1, 2, U-King-Im J. M. 2, Walsh S. R. 2, Young V. E. 1, Sadat U. 1, Li Z. Y. 1, Patterson A. J. 1, Varty K. 2, Gillard J. H. 1

1 University Department of Radiology, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Cambridge, UK 2 Cambridge Vascular Unit, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Cambridge, UK


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Despite recent therapeutic advances, acute ischemic complications of atherosclerosis remain the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in Western countries, with carotid atherosclerotic disease one of the major preventable causes of stroke. As the impact of this disease challenges our healthcare systems, we are becoming aware that factors influencing this disease are more complex than previously realized. In current clinical practice, risk stratification relies primarily on evaluation of the degree of luminal stenosis and patient symptomatology. Adequate investigation and optimal imaging are important factors that affect the quality of a carotid endarterectomy (CEA) service and are fundamental to patient selection. Digital subtraction angiography is still perceived as the most accurate imaging modality for carotid stenosis and historically has been the cornerstone of most of the major CEA trials but concerns regarding potential neurological complications have generated substantial interest in non-invasive modalities, such as contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography. The purpose of this review is to give an overview to the vascular specialist of the current imaging modalities in clinical practice to identify patients with carotid stenosis. Advantages and disadvantages of each technique are outlined. Finally, limitations of assessing luminal stenosis in general are discussed. This article will not cover imaging of carotid atheroma morphology, function and other emerging imaging modalities of assessing plaque risk, which look beyond simple luminal measurements.

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tt279@cam.ac.uk