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Bradley Kolb, Hassan Fadel, Gary Rajah, Hamidreza Saber, Ali Luqman and Leonardo Rangel-Castilla


Steno-occlusive diseases of the cerebral vasculature have been associated with cognitive decline. The authors performed a systematic review of the existing literature on intracranial steno-occlusive disease, including intracranial atherosclerosis and moyamoya disease (MMD), to determine the extent and quality of evidence for the effect of revascularization on cognitive performance.


A systematic search of PubMed/MEDLINE, the Thomson Reuters Web of Science Core Collection, and the KCI Korean Journal Database was performed to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in the English-language literature and observational studies that compared cognitive outcomes before and after revascularization in patients with steno-occlusive disease of the intracranial vasculature, from which data were extracted and analyzed.


Nine papers were included, consisting of 2 RCTs and 7 observational cohort studies. Results from 2 randomized trials including 142 patients with symptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic steno-occlusion found no additional benefit to revascularization when added to maximal medical therapy. The certainty in the results of these trials was limited by concerns for bias and indirectness. Results from 7 observational trials including 282 patients found some cognitive benefit for revascularization for symptomatic atherosclerotic steno-occlusion and for steno-occlusion related to MMD in children. The certainty of these conclusions was low to very low, due to both inherent limitations in observational studies for inferring causality and concerns for added risk of bias and indirectness in some studies.


The effects of revascularization on cognitive performance in intracranial steno-occlusive disease remain uncertain due to limitations in existing studies. More well-designed randomized trials and observational studies are needed to determine if revascularization can arrest or reverse cognitive decline in these patients.