Local versus general anaesthesia for carotid endarterectomy


  • C Tangkanakul,

  • C Counsell,

  • C Warlow

    Professor of Medical Neurology, Corresponding author
    1. Western General Hospital, Neurosciences Trials Unit, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Edinburgh, UK
    • C Warlow, Professor of Medical Neurology, Neurosciences Trials Unit, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK. cpw@skull.dcn.ed.ac.uk.

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Carotid endarterectomy reduces the risk of stroke in people with recently symptomatic, severe carotid artery stenosis. However, there are significant perioperative risks which may be lessened by performing the operation under local rather than general anaesthetic.


The objective of this review was to assess the effect of endarterectomy under local compared with general anaesthetic.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group trials register, Medline (1966 to 1995), Embase (1980 to 1995), and Index to Scientific and Technical Proceedings (1980 to 1994). We handsearched Annals of Surgery (1981 to 1995), British Journal of Surgery (1985 to 1995), European Journal of Vascular Surgery (1988 to 1995) and World Journal of Surgery (1978 to 1995). Reference lists of articles were searched.

Selection criteria

Randomised trials and non-randomised studies comparing carotid endarterectomy under local versus general anaesthetic.

Data collection and analysis

One reviewer selected studies for inclusion and another independently checked the decisions. Two reviewers assessed trial quality and independently extracted the data.

Main results

Three randomised trials involving 143 patients, and 17 non-randomised studies involving about 5970 patients were included. The methodological quality of the randomised trials was questionable. Two of the non-randomised studies were prospective and 12 reported on a consecutive series of patients. In nine non-randomised studies the number of patients, as opposed to the number of arteries, was unclear. There were insufficient data to enable conclusions to be drawn from the randomised trials. In 15 non-randomised studies, no significant difference was shown between local and general anaesthetic in deaths within 30 days of operation (odds ratio 0.61, 95% confidence interval 0.32 to 1.16). Non-randomised studies showed that local anaesthetic was associated with a significant reduction in the odds of stroke (15 studies), stroke or death (14 studies), myocardial infarction (12 studies), and pulmonary complications (five studies), within 30 days of the operation. Patient and surgeon satisfaction were not reported in any study.

Reviewer's conclusions

There is not enough evidence from randomised trials comparing carotid endarterectomy performed under local as opposed to general anaesthetic. Non-randomised studies suggest potential benefits with local anaesthetic. However these studies are likely to be significantly biased.

Plain language summary


Synopsis pending.