Frequency and significance of a small distal ICA in carotid artery stenosis

James E. Dix, Brian J. McNulty, David F. Kallmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Accurate calculation of the percentage of stenosis is crucial for identifying candidates for endarterectomy. Our goal was to quantify the reduction in diameter of the distal internal carotid artery (ICA) as a function of proximal ICA stenosis and to discuss the implications of distal ICA narrowing on the calculation of percentage of stenosis using the criteria of the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial (NASCET). METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the carotid angiograms of 81 patients referred for evaluation of carotid stenosis. The caliber of the ICA stenosis and the diameters of the normal distal ICA, the common carotid artery, and the internal maxillary artery were remeasured with precision calipers. The percentage of stenosis derived from the NASCET criteria were compared with vessel diameter and with the difference in size of the ipsilateral and contralateral distal ICAs. We then recalculated the percentage of stenosis by substituting the presumed normal contralateral distal ICA diameter for the ipsilateral distal ICA diameter. RESULTS: In carotid arteries without significant stenosis (<70%), the distal ICA diameter measured 5.94 ±10 mm, but in vessels with severe stenosis (>70%), the distal ICA diameter measured 4.69 ± 1.23 mm. After recalculation, four of 26 vessels were upgraded in classification from moderate (40% to 69%) to severe (>70%) stenosis. CONCLUSION: The diameter of the distal ICA begins to decrease when the proximal stenosis is 60% or greater. If the ICA distal to a stenosis is smaller than the contralateral ICA, recalculating the percentage of stenosis by substituting measurements of the contralateral distal ICA diameter may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1215-1218
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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