We examined the changes in cognitive function following carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in relation to the cerebral blood flow (CBF) in patients with high-grade carotid stenosis. The subjects consisted of 23 patients who underwent CEA and 17 controls matched by age and education. Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and neuropsychological tests were performed 2 weeks before and 4 weeks after CEA in all patients. The preoperative CBF tests revealed a decreased vasodilatory reserve in the ipsilateral cerebral hemisphere in nine patients, which was increased after CEA. In these patients, the grade of carotid stenosis was significantly higher than in those with a normal perfusion reserve (90.2 ± 8.1% vs. 78.6 ± 11.3%, respectively, p < 0.05). In the patient group, the postoperative scores (27.2 ± 2.9) of the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) improved significantly over the preoperative ones (26.1 ± 3.2, p < 0.05). Moreover, the scores in the block-design test after CEA (86.8 ± 19.8) were significantly higher than those before the operation (81.8 ± 22.3, p < 0.01). The error score in immediate retention improved from 9.0 ± 3.1 to 7.7 ± 4.0 following CEA (p < 0.05). In the control group, none of the test scores showed significant improvement between the first and second tests. In the patients with an impaired vasodilatory reserve, the mean score of the block-design test significantly improved from 65.6 ± 22.1 to 74.0 ± 19.2 after CEA compared with those in patients without impairment (p < 0.05). High-grade carotid stenosis was thus concluded to cause cognitive impairment due to cerebral hemodynamic failure, which is presumably reversed by CEA.
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