Cerebral hyperperfusion after carotid endarterectomy (CEA) impairs cognitive function and is often detected on cerebral blood flow (CBF) imaging. The purpose of the present study is to investigate structural brain damage seen on magnetic resonance (MR) images obtained in patients with cerebral hyperperfusion and cognitive impairment after CEA.
One hundred and fifty-eight patients with ipsilateral internal carotid artery stenosis (≥ 70%) underwent CEA. Neuropsychological testing was performed preoperatively and at the 1st postoperative month. Cerebral blood flow was measured using single-photon emission computed tomography before, immediately after, and 3 days after surgery. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed before and 1 day after surgery. In patients with post-CEA hyperper-fusion (defined as a CBF increase ≥ 100% compared with preoperative values) on CBF imaging, MR images were also obtained on the 3rd postoperative day, the day on which hyperperfusion syndrome developed, and 1 month after the operation.
The incidence of postoperative cognitive impairment was significantly higher in patients with post-CEA hyperperfusion on CBF imaging (12 [75%] of 16 patients) than in those without (6 [4%] of 142 patients; p < 0.0001). Only 1 of 5 patients with cerebral hyperperfusion syndrome developed reversible brain edema in the cerebral hemisphere ipsilateral to the CEA on MR images obtained on the day hyperperfusion syndrome occurred. However, postoperative cognitive impairment developed in all 5 patients with cerebral hyperperfusion syndrome regardless of the presence or absence of new lesions on MR images. In addition, postoperative cognitive impairment developed in 5 (45%) of 11 patients with asymptomatic cerebral hyperperfusion on CBF imaging despite the absence of new lesions on any postoperative MR images.
Although cerebral hyperperfusion syndrome after CEA sometimes results in reversible brain edema visible on MR imaging, postoperative cerebral hyperperfusion—even when asymptomatic—often results in impaired cognitive function without structural brain damage on MR imaging.