Cerebral revascularization for carotid occlusion was previously a mainstay procedure for the cerebrovascular neurosurgeon. However, the 1985 extracranial-intracranial bypass trial and subsequently the Carotid Occlusion Surgery Study (COSS) provided level 1 evidence via randomized controlled trials against bypass for symptomatic atherosclerotic carotid occlusion disease. However, in a small number of patients optimal medical therapy fails, and some patients with flow-limiting stenosis develop a perfusion-dependent neurological examination. Therefore it is necessary to further stratify patients by risk to determine who may most benefit from this intervention as well as to determine perioperative morbidity in this high-risk patient population.
A retrospective review was performed of all revascularization procedures done for symptomatic atherosclerotic cerebrovascular steno-occlusive disease. All patients undergoing revascularization after the publication of the COSS in 2011 were included. Perioperative morbidity and mortality were assessed as the primary outcome to determine safety of revascularization in this high-risk population. All patients had documented hypoperfusion on hemodynamic imaging.
At total of 35 revascularization procedures were included in this review. The most common indication was for patients with recurrent strokes, who were receiving optimal medical therapy and who suffered from cerebrovascular steno-occlusion. At 30 days only 3 perioperative ischemic events were observed, 2 of which led to no long-term neurological deficit. Immediate graft patency was good, at 94%. Long term, no further strokes or ischemic events were observed, and graft patency remained high at 95%. There were no factors associated with perioperative ischemic events in the variables that were recorded.
Cerebral revascularization may be done safely at high-volume cerebrovascular centers in high-risk patients in whom optimal medical therapy has failed. Further research must be done to develop an improved methodology of risk stratification for patients with symptomatic atherosclerotic cerebrovascular steno-occlusive disease to determine which patients may benefit from intervention. Given the high risk of recurrent stroke in certain patients, and the fact that patients fail medical therapy, surgical revascularization may provide the best method to ensure good long-term outcomes with manageable up-front risks.