Increased Regional Market Competition is Associated with a Lower Threshold for Revascularization in Asymptomatic Carotid Artery Stenosis

Published:August 04, 2022DOI:


      Revascularization practices with respect to asymptomatic carotid stenosis (ACAS) are known to vary widely among proceduralists. In addition, regional market competition has been previously shown to drive more aggressive practices in a number of surgical procedures. The aim of our study was to examine the association of regional market competition with revascularization thresholds for ACAS.


      All patients undergoing carotid revascularization in the Vascular Quality Initiative carotid endarterectomy and stenting databases (2016–2020) were included. High-grade carotid stenosis was defined as ≥80%. We calculated the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI; a measure of physician market competition) for each U.S region as defined by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Logistic regression was used to examine the association of degree of carotid stenosis at revascularization with HHI stratified by symptomatology, adjusting for age, sex, race, insurance, and revascularization modality.


      Of 92,243 carotid interventions, 57,094 (61.9%) were performed for ACAS and 35,149 (38.1%) were performed for symptomatic carotid stenosis (SCAS). ACAS patients undergoing revascularization for moderate-grade stenosis were significantly less likely to be aspirin (85.6% vs. 86.3%), clopidogrel (41.3% vs. 45.1%), dual anti-platelet therapy (35.9% vs. 39.2%) and systemic anticoagulants (10.9 vs. 11.7%) compared to high-grade stenosis (all P < 0.05). Multivariable analysis demonstrated that decreased local market competition was independently associated with a lower odds of revascularization for moderate versus high-grade ACAS (odds ratio OR: 0.99 per 10 point increase in HHI, 95% confidence interval CI: 0.98–0.99). There was no association of local market competition with degree of carotid stenosis at time of revascularization among patients with SCAS (OR: 1.00 per 10 point increase in HHI, 95% CI: 0.99–1.00). Among ACAS patients, patients with moderate-grade stenosis had a higher odds ratio of in-hospital stroke or death compared to patients with high-grade stenosis (OR: 1.22, 95% CI 1.03–1.45). This association was not redemonstrated in the SCAS group (OR: 0.92, 95% CI: 0.80–1.06).


      Increased local market competition is associated with a lower threshold for revascularization of ACAS. There is no association between regional market competition and revascularization threshold for SCAS. These findings, combined with the significantly increased risk of perioperative stroke/death among moderate-grade ACAS patients, suggest that competition among proceduralists may result in a higher tolerance for increased operative risk in patients who might otherwise be reasonable candidates for surveillance.
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