Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Clinical geriatrics

Carotid artery disease in older people: clinical features and management

A Ross Naylora1 c1

a1 Department of Vascular Surgery, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, UK


The ‘take home’ messages for managing elderly patients with symptomatic carotid disease are that they need to be investigated as soon as possible after onset of the index event and that someone has to take active responsibility for ensuring that risk factor control and best medical therapy is started as soon as possible. In this modern era, patients suffering a transient ischaemic attack/minor stroke should be seen in dedicated, rapidly accessible single visit clinics, and those found to have significant carotid disease should generally be admitted and undergo expedited carotid endarterectomy (CEA) unless contra-indicated. Every centre should now aim to be performing carotid surgery within 14 days of onset of symptoms, with this threshold likely to become even shorter in the future. The current culture of allowing delays to treatment should be considered unacceptable. Evidence suggests that the risk of procedural stroke is lower in higher volume centres and this should be considered when planning referrals. Recently symptomatic elderly patients deemed unfit for CEA should be considered for carotid artery stenting (CAS), but with the caveat that this may be associated with an increased risk of procedural stroke. In this situation, every patient should be considered on an individual basis and no symptomatic patient should be denied access to surgery simply on the grounds of age. Meta-analyses of data from the international trials have clearly shown that patients aged >75 years gain considerably more benefit from CEA than any other age group. In contrast, there is no compelling evidence that patients aged >75 years with asymptomatic carotid artery disease benefit from CEA or CAS. For this category of patients, risk factor control and best medical therapy should remain the first line of management.

(Online publication December 16 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor A.R. Naylor, Department of Vascular Surgery, Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, UK. Email: