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Original article

Vol. 144 No. 2728 (2014)

Cognitive and emotional effects of carotid stenosis

  • Regula Everts
  • Manuela Wapp
  • Yuliya Burren
  • Frauke Kellner-Weldon
  • Marwan El-Koussy
  • Jann Kay
  • Jessica Delameilluer Lenoir
  • Patrik Michel
  • Gerhard Schroth
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2014;144:w13970


PRINCIPLES: Patients with carotid artery stenosis (CAS) are at risk of ipsilateral stroke and chronic compromise of cerebral blood flow. It is under debate whether the hypo­perfusion or embolism in CAS is directly related to cognitive impairment. Alternatively, CAS may be a marker for underlying risk factors, which themselves influence cognition. We aimed to determine cognitive performance level and the emotional state of patients with CAS. We hypo­thesised that patients with high grade stenosis, bilateral stenosis, symptomatic patients and/or those with relevant risk factors would suffer impairment of their cognitive performance and emotional state.

METHODS: A total of 68 patients with CAS of ≥70% were included in a prospective exploratory study design. All patients underwent structured assessment of executive functions, language, verbal and visual memory, motor speed, anxiety and depression.

RESULTS: Significantly more patients with CAS showed cognitive impairments (executive functions, word production, verbal and visual memory, motor speed) and anxiety than expected in a normative sample. Bilateral and symptomatic stenosis was associated with slower processing speed. Cognitive performance and anxiety level were not influenced by the side and the degree of stenosis or the presence of collaterals. Factors associated with less co­gnitive impairment included higher education level, female gender, ambidexterity and treated hypercholesterolemia.

CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive impairment and increased level of anxiety are frequent in patients with carotid stenosis. The lack of a correlation between cognitive functioning and degree of stenosis or the presence of collaterals, challenges the view that CAS per se leads to cognitive impairment.


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