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Symptomatic Carotid Artery Stenosis: Surgery, Stenting, or Medical Therapy?

Symptomatic carotid artery disease is a significant cause of ischemic stroke, and these patients are at high risk for recurrent vascular events. Patients with symptoms of stroke or transient ischemic attack attributable to a significantly stenotic vessel (70-99% luminal narrowing) should be treated with intensive medical therapy. Intensive medical therapy is a combination of pharmacologic and lifestyle interventions consistent with best-known practices as follows: initiation of antiplatelet agent or anticoagulation if medically indicated, high potency statin medication, blood pressure control with goal blood pressure of greater than 140/90, Mediterranean-style diet, exercise, and smoking cessation. Further, patients who have extracranial culprit lesions should be considered for revascularization with either carotid endarterectomy or carotid angioplasty and stenting depending on several factors including the patient's anatomy, age, gender, and procedural risk. Based on current evidence, patients with symptomatic intracranial stenosis should be managed with intensive medical therapy, including the use of dual antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and clopidogrel for the first 90 days following the ischemic event. While the literature has shown a stronger benefit of revascularization of extracranial symptomatic disease among certain subgroups of patients with greater than 70% stenosis, there is less benefit from revascularization with endarterectomy in patients with moderate stenosis of 50-69% if the surgeon's risk of perioperative stroke or death rate is greater than 6%.

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