Clinical Crossroads
Clinician's Corner
July 2, 2008

A 70-Year-Old Man With a Transient Ischemic AttackReview of Internal Carotid Artery Stenosis

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Dr Caplan is Senior Neurologist and member of the Cerebrovascular/Stroke Division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2008;300(1):81-90. doi:10.1001/jama.299.21.jrr80004

Mr V, a man with severe coronary, aortic, and peripheral artery disease, had an episode of brain ischemia caused by severe preocclusive carotid artery disease in the neck. The major treatment options for his symptomatic carotid artery disease are optimizing medical treatment, carotid endarterectomy, and carotid artery stenting. Selection of treatment must take into consideration his severe symptomatic coronary artery disease as well as Mr V's concerns about surgery. Carotid endarterectomy presents a risk of myocardial infarction unless his coronary disease is treated effectively before surgery. Carotid stenting is problematic because the severity of the preocclusive arterial narrowing makes passing a protective device beyond the stenosis difficult without first performing potentially hazardous angioplasty. Optimizing medical treatment may be the best option for his severe systemic atherosclerosis. Treatment decisions in complex patients like Mr V require weighing the particular risks and benefits of available options, and the patient's own wishes and fears. These decisions, in this and other complex patients, often cannot be directly informed by results from randomized trials.