Who benefits most from intervention for asymptomatic carotid stenosis: patients or professionals?
Naylor AR., Gaines PA., Rothwell PM.
Although there is level I evidence supporting the role of carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in patients with asymptomatic disease, opinion remains polarised regarding what constitutes optimal management, especially as carotid artery stenting (CAS) has emerged as a less invasive alternative. Reasons for this lack of consensus amongst surgeons, interventionists, neurologists and stroke physicians include our continued inability to identify 'high risk for stroke' patients in whom to target costly therapies. For example, recent data from the USA suggest that up to $21 billion is being spent each year on ultimately 'unnecessary' interventions. Second, is growing evidence that improvements in what now constitutes modern 'best medical therapy' has significantly reduced the risk of stroke compared to that observed in ACAS and ACST. If true, this will compromise risk:benefit analyses used in national and international guidelines. At a time when evidence suggests that up to 94% of interventions may not benefit the patient, the authors urge that at least one of the randomised trials comparing CEA with CAS in asymptomatic patients includes an adequately powered third limb for BMT. Timely investment now could optimise patient care and resource utilisation for all of us in the future.