Dexamethasone minimizes the risk of cranial nerve injury during CEA

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Objective: The incidence of cranial and cervical nerve injury during carotid endarterectomy (CEA) ranges from less than 7.6% to more than 50%. Lesions are mainly due to surgical maneuvers such as traction, compression, tissue electrocoagulation, clamping, and extensive dissections. The use of dexamethasone (DEX) and its beneficial effects in spinal cord injuries have already been described. We investigated whether DEX could also be beneficial to minimize the incidence of cranial and cervical nerve injury during CEA. Purpose: To evaluate whether dexamethasone is able to reduce the incidence of cranial nerve injuries. Materials and Methods: From March 1999 through April 2006, 1126 patients undergoing CEA because of high-grade carotid stenosis were enrolled and randomized by predetermined randomization tables into two groups. The first group, "A", included 586 patients that all received an intravenous administration of dexamethasone following a therapeutic scheme. The second group, "B", included 540 control subjects that received the standard pre- and postoperative therapy. All patients were submitted to a deep cervical plexus block, eversion carotid endarterectomy, and selective shunting. Three days after the operation, an independent neurologist and otorhinolaryngologist evaluated the presence of cranial nerve deficits. All patients (group A and group B) showing nerve injuries continued the treatment (8 mg of dexamethasone once in the morning) for 7 days and were re-evaluated after 2 weeks, 30 days, and every 3 months for 1 year. Recovery time took from 2 weeks to 12 months, with a mean time of 3.6 months. The χ2 test was used to compare the two groups and to check for statistical significance. Results: The incidence of cranial nerve dysfunction was higher in group B and the statistical analysis showed a significant effect of dexamethasone in preventing the neurological damage (P = .0081). The incidence of temporary lesions was lower in group A and the χ2 test yielded a P value of .006. No statistically significant differences were found when comparing the effect of dexamethasone in men and women. In addition, dexamethasone had no statistically significant effect on the incidence of permanent cranial nerve injuries. Finally, no adverse effect related to the administration of dexamethasone was observed. Conclusion: Perioperative administration of dexamethasone is effective in minimizing the incidence of temporary cranial nerve injuries during CEA. © 2009 The Society for Vascular Surgery.




Regina, G., Angiletta, D., Impedovo, G., Robertis, G. D., Fiorella, M., & Carratu’, M. R. (2009). Dexamethasone minimizes the risk of cranial nerve injury during CEA. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 49(1), 99–102.

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