The hostile neck does not increase the risk of carotid endarterectomy

Mauro Frego, Alessio Bridda, Cesare Ruffolo, Marco Scarpa, Lino Polese, Giorgio Bianchera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Hostile neck anatomy is assumed to be associated with increased surgical risk for patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and is often considered a reason to choose carotid stenting or medical management. This retrospective case-control study evaluated whether, and how much, anatomically hostile necks represent a condition of higher surgical risk of early and late mortality and major or minor morbidity. Methods: The data for 966 homogeneous CEA patients was prospectively entered in a computer database. Seventy-seven had a hostile neck anatomy due to previous oncologic surgery or neck irradiation, restenoses after CEA, high carotid bifurcation, or bull-like and inextensible neck. A case-control matched-pair cohort study considered sex, age (5-year intervals), and year of operation. Regional anesthesia was used for all operations for atherosclerotic stenosis ≥70%, conforming to the European Carotid Surgery Trial (ECST) in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, at a single center and by one surgeon or under his direct supervision. Results: The hostile neck patients and the control group were matched for age, sex, carotid-related symptoms, degree of stenoses, and main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Intraoperative variables were substantially equivalent in the two groups; however, procedure length and clamping time were, respectively, about 22 minutes (P = .0001) and 7 minutes longer (P = .01) in the hostile neck group. Rates of postoperative mortality and neurologic events were equivalent. Peripheral nerve lesions were multiple and significantly more frequent in the hostile neck patients (21% with ≥1 cranial nerve lesion vs 7% of controls, P = .03), yet all were transient and limited to a few months. The subgroups of patients with hostile neck, restenoses, and bull-like inextensible necks required the longest operative and clamping time, and those with bull-like and high bifurcation had the most frequent cranial nerve dysfunctions. At the respective follow-up of 47 and 45 months, survival curves (P = .48) and the incidence of restenoses and fatal and nonfatal strokes were similar (5 and 4, respectively). Conclusions: Hostile necks led to more complex CEA procedures but without substantial consequences in early and late morbidity and mortality. Most patients with hostile neck can undergo CEA at low risk, with the benefit of effective long-lasting stroke prevention similar to standard patients. In our opinion, the more frequent but temporary cranial nerve dysfunctions that occur are not sufficient to consider hostile neck patients noneligible for CEA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-47
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery


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