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Current guidelines recommend against routine auscultation of carotid arteries, believing that carotid bruits are poor predictors of either underlying carotid stenosis or stroke risk in asymptomatic patients. We investigated whether the presence of a carotid bruit is associated with increased risk for transient ischemic attack, stroke, or death by stroke (stroke death).
We searched Medline (1966 to December 2009) and EMBASE (1974 to December 2009) with the terms "carotid" and "bruit." Bibliographies of all retrieved articles were also searched. Articles were included if they prospectively reported the incidence of transient ischemic attack, stroke, or stroke death in asymptomatic adults. Two authors independently reviewed and extracted data.
We included 28 prospective cohort articles that followed a total of 17 913 patients for 67 708 patient-years. Among studies that directly compared patients with and without bruits, the rate ratio for transient ischemic attack was 4.00 (95% CI, 1.8 to 9.0, P<0.0005, n=5 studies), stroke was 2.5 (95% CI, 1.8 to 3.5, P<0.0005, n=6 studies), and stroke death was 2.7 (95% CI, 1.33 to 5.53, P=0.002, n=3 studies). Among the larger pool of studies that provided data on rates, transient ischemic attack rates were 2.6 per 100 patient-years (95% CI, 2.0 to 3.2, P<0.0005, n=24 studies) for those with bruits compared with 0.9 per 100 patient-years (95% CI, 0.2 to 1.6, P=0.02, n=5 studies) for those without carotid bruits. Stroke rates were 1.6 per 100 patient-years (95% CI, 1.3 to 1.9, P<0.0005, n=26 studies) for those with bruits compared with 1.3 per 100 patient-years (95% CI, 0.8 to 1.7, P<0.0005, n=6) without carotid bruits, and death rates were 0.32 (95% CI, 0.20 to 0.44, P<0.005, n=13 studies) for those with bruits compared with 0.35 (95% CI, 0.00 to 0.81, P=0.17, n=3 studies) for those without carotid bruits.
The presence of a carotid bruit may increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease.
From Keller Army Hospital, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY; Department of Cardiology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC; and the Division of General Medicine, Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisc.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation
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