• Noninvasive carotid artery testing was performed in 73 patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation who were referred because of symptoms or signs of cerebrovascular disease. Thromboembolism related to atrial fibrillation without valvular heart disease was the probable source of cerebral ischemia in 25 (80%) of 31 patients with stroke and coexisting atherosclerotic disease at the carotid artery bifurcation in six (20%). Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation was the probable source of symptoms in nine (70%) of 13 of patients with transient cerebral ischemia, while coexisting carotid artery disease was present in four (30%). Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation accounted for the symptoms in four of five patients with amaurosis fugax, with atherosclerotic carotid artery disease present in one. The remaining 24 patients had nonhemispheric symptoms of cerebrovascular disease, including vertebrobasilar Insufficiency, dizziness, and syncope, and only one had a carotid lesion. A significantly higher proportion of patients with focal hemispheric symptoms had coexisting carotid disease than patients with nonfocal symptoms had, suggesting that atherosclerotic cerebrovascular disease contributes to stroke in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. Noninvasive carotid artery testing may be helpful in identifying atherosclerotic lesions at the carotid artery bifurcation in patients with atrial fibrillation and cerebrovascular disease, because different therapeutic modalities may be appropriate when two potential sources of cerebral ischemia are present.
(Arch Intern Med 1988;148:1785-1788)