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Original article

Vol. 145 No. 5152 (2015)

Cognitive improvement in patients with carotid stenosis is independent of treatment type

  • Manuela Wapp
  • Regula Everts
  • Yuliya Burren
  • Frauke Kellner-Weldon
  • Marwan El-Koussy
  • Roland Wiest
  • Andrea Federspiel
  • Patrik Michel
  • Gerhard Schroth
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2015;145:w14226


Treatment of carotid artery stenosis decreases the long-term risk of stroke and may enhance cerebral blood flow. It is therefore expected to have the potential to prevent cognitive decline or even improve cognition over the long-term. However, intervention itself can cause peri-interventional cerebral infarcts, possibly resulting in a decline of cognitive performance, at least for a short time. We investigated the long-term effects of three treatment methods on cognition and the emotional state one year after intervention.

In this prospective observational cohort study, 58 patients with extracranial carotid artery stenosis (≥70%) underwent magnetic resonance imaging and assessment of cognition, mood and motor speed before carotid endarterectomy (n = 20), carotid stenting (n = 10) or best medical treatment (n = 28) (i.e., time-point 1 [TP1]), and at one-year follow-up (TP2). Gain scores, reflecting cognitive change after treatment, were built according to performance as (TP2 −TP1)/TP1.

Independent of the treatment type, significant improvement in frontal lobe functions, visual memory and motor speed was found. Performance level, motor speed and mood at TP1 were negatively correlated with gain scores, with greater improvement in patients with low performance before treatment.

Active therapy, whether conservative or interventional, produces significant improvement of frontal lobe functions and memory in patients with carotid artery disease, independent of treatment type. This effect was particularly pronounced in patients with low cognitive performance prior to treatment.


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