Contrast injection cerebral angiography has been considered for several decades the "gold-standard" technique for diagnosis and operative planning of carotid disease. More recently, however, an increasing number of institutions are using duplex ultrasound as the single independent preoperative test. The objective of this investigation was to evaluate the impact of the utilization of duplex ultrasonography as the only preoperative test on the outcome of the procedure. Between 1993 and 1996, the authors performed 1,149 carotid procedures. Duplex ultrasound as the only preoperative test was employed with increasing frequency in a total of 728 cases. In 1995 and 1996, a cerebral arteriogram was performed only if duplex ultrasound was technically inadequate or questionable or showed an atypical pattern of disease. During the 4 years analyzed in this study, the number of the procedures increased from 165 in 1993 to 412 in 1996. The thirty-day mortality rate was 0.43%, and neurologic morbidity was 1.65%. According to the year in which the procedure was performed, the mortality/morbidity rates were 1.2/2.4 in 1993, 0.52/2.08 in 1994, 0.26/1.57 in 1995, and 0.24/1.21 in 1996. Indication to perform an arteriogram became very selective in 1995. Regardless of these changes in the diagnostic work-up, some degree of reduction in both 30-day mortality and neurologic morbidity was recorded. Considering a cost of 724 European Currency Units (ECU) per arteriogram, 527,072 ECU were saved in this period. In the last 4 years, duplex ultrasound has replaced arteriography as the first-choice technique for preoperative assessment of carotid disease at the authors' institution. There was definitely no detrimental effect on the clinical results that, on the contrary, improved during the same period. This policy has allowed a significant reduction in the cost of the procedure and has most likely prevented several arteriography-related complications. The authors recommend this policy to all institutions in which accurate duplex ultrasound is available.
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