Carotid endarterectomy (CEA) carries a small but not insignificant risk of stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA), most frequently observed within 24 hours of surgery, which can lead to the need for urgent vascular imaging in the immediate postoperative period. However, distinguishing expected versus pathological postoperative changes may not be straightforward on imaging studies of the carotid artery early after CEA. The authors aimed to describe routine versus pathological anatomical findings on CTA performed within 24 hours of CEA, and to evaluate associations between these CTA findings and postoperative stroke/TIA.
The authors reviewed 113 consecutive adult patients who underwent postoperative CTA within 24 hours of CEA at a single academic institution. Presence and location of arterial “flaps,” luminal “step-off,” intraluminal thrombus and hematoma were documented from postoperative CTA scans. Medical records were reviewed to determine the incidence of new postoperative neurological findings.
Postoperative CTA findings included common carotid artery (CCA) step-off (63.7%), one or more intraarterial flaps (27.4%), hematoma at the surgical site (15.9%), and new intraluminal thrombus (7.1%). Flaps were seen in the external carotid artery (ECA), internal carotid artery (ICA), and CCA in 18.6%, 9.7%, and 6.2% of patients, respectively. New postoperative neurological findings were present in 7.1% of patients undergoing CTA. Flaps (especially ICA/CCA) and/or intraluminal thrombi were more frequently seen in patients undergoing CTA for new postoperative stroke/TIA (85.7%) versus patients undergoing CTA for routine postoperative imaging (14.3%, p = 0.002).
CTA within 24 hours of CEA demonstrates characteristic anatomical findings. CCA step-offs and ECA flaps are relatively common and clinically insignificant, whereas ICA/CCA flaps and thrombi are less frequently seen and are associated with postoperative stroke/TIA.