Comparing Long-term Mortality After Carotid Endarterectomy vs Carotid Stenting Using a Novel Instrumental Variable Method for Risk Adjustment in Observational Time-to-Event Data

Journal JAMA Network Open
Authors Jesse A. Columbo; Pablo Martinez-Camblor; Todd A. MacKenzie; Douglas O. Staiger; Ravinder Kang; Philip P. Goodney; A. James O’Malley
Year Published 2018
Link to publication



Choosing between competing treatment options is difficult for patients and clinicians when results from randomized and observational studies are discordant. Observational real-world studies yield more generalizable evidence for decision making than randomized clinical trials, but unmeasured confounding, especially in time-to-event analyses, can limit validity.


To compare long-term survival after carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and carotid artery stenting (CAS) in real-world practice using a novel instrumental variable method designed for time-to-event outcomes, and to compare the results with traditional risk-adjustment models used in observational research for survival analyses.


A multicenter cohort study was performed. The Vascular Quality Initiative, an observational quality improvement registry, was used to compare long-term mortality after CEA vs CAS. The study included 86 017 patients who underwent CEA (n = 73 312) or CAS (n = 12 705) between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2016. Patients were followed up for long-term mortality assessment by linking the registry data to Medicare claims. Medicare claims data were available through September 31, 2015.


Procedure type (CEA vs CAS).


The hazard ratios (HRs) of all-cause mortality using unadjusted, adjusted, propensity-matched, and instrumental variable methods were examined. The instrumental variable was the proportion of CEA among the total carotid procedures (endarterectomy and stenting) performed at each hospital in the 12 months before each patient’s index operation and therefore varies over the study period.


Participants who underwent CEA had a mean (SD) age of 70.3 (9.4) years compared with 69.1 (10.4) years for CAS, and most were men (44 191 [60.4%] for CEA and 8117 [63.9%] for CAS). The observed 5-year mortality was 12.8% (95% CI, 12.5%-13.2%) for CEA and 17.0% (95% CI, 16.0%-18.1%) for CAS. The unadjusted HR of mortality for CEA vs CAS was 0.67 (95% CI, 0.64-0.71), and Cox-adjusted and propensity-matched HRs were similar (0.69; 95% CI, 0.65-0.74 and 0.71; 95% CI, 0.65-0.77, respectively). These findings are comparable with published observational studies of CEA vs CAS. However, the association between CEA and mortality was more modest when estimated by instrumental variable analysis (HR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.70-0.98), a finding similar to data reported in randomized clinical trials.


The study found a survival advantage associated with CEA over CAS in unadjusted and Cox-adjusted analyses. However, this finding was more modest when using an instrumental variable method designed for time-to-event outcomes for risk adjustment. The instrumental variable-based results were more similar to findings from randomized clinical trials, suggesting this method may provide less biased estimates of time-dependent outcomes in observational analyses.