Association of Stroke or Death with Severity of Carotid Lesion Calcification in Patients Undergoing Carotid Artery Stenting

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Journal of vascular surgery


OBJECTIVE: Carotid artery stenting (CAS) for heavily calcified lesions is controversial due to concern for stent failure and increased perioperative stroke risk. However, the degree to which calcification affects outcomes is poorly understood, particularly in transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR). With the precipitous increase in TCAR use and its expansion to standard surgical-risk patients, we aimed to determine the impact of lesion calcification on CAS outcomes to ensure its safe and appropriate use. METHODS: We identified patients in VQI who underwent first-time transfemoral CAS (tfCAS) and TCAR between 2016-2021. Patients were stratified into groups based on degree of lesion calcification: no calcification, 1-50% calcification, 51-99% calcification, and 100% circumferential calcification or intraluminal protrusion. Outcomes included in-hospital and 1-year composite stroke/death, as well as individual stroke, death, and myocardial infarction (MI) outcomes. Logistic regression was used to evaluate associations between degree of calcification and these outcomes. RESULTS: Among 21,860 patients undergoing CAS, 28% patients had no calcification, 34% had 1-50% calcification, 35% had 51-99% calcification, and 3% had 100% circumferential calcification/protrusion. Patients with 51-99% and circumferential calcification/protrusion had higher odds of in-hospital stroke/death (OR 1.3[1.02-1.6], p=0.034; OR 1.9[1.1-2.9], p=0.004, respectively) compared to those with no calcification. Circumferential calcification was also associated with increased risk for in-hospital MI (OR 3.5[1.5-8.0], p=0.003). In tfCAS patients, only circumferential calcification/protrusion was associated with higher in-hospital stroke/death odds (OR 2.0[1.2-3.4], p=0.013), while for TCAR patients, 51-99% calcification was associated with increased odds of in-hospital stroke/death (OR 1.5[1.1-2.2], p=0.025). At 1-year, circumferential calcification/protrusion was associated with higher odds of ipsilateral stroke/death (12.4% vs 6.6%, HR 1.64, p=0.002). CONCLUSIONS: Among patients undergoing CAS, there is an increased risk of in-hospital stroke/death for lesions with >50% calcification or circumferential/protruding plaques. Increasing severity of carotid lesion calcification is a significant risk factor for stroke/death in patients undergoing CAS, regardless of approach.