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Stroke Health Center

Preventing Stroke Without Major Surgery

Angioplasty and Stents Are as Effective as Surgery, Says Study
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Dec. 1, 2004 -- When it comes to preventing stroke, traditional surgery isn't the only way to go. Newer methods are just as effective, say Italian researchers.

Finding ways to ward off stroke is urgent. Stroke is the No. 3 killer in the U.S, behind heart disease and cancer. More than 700,000 Americans have a stroke every year, according to the American Stroke Association.

Traditionally, blocked or narrowed carotid arteries - blood vessels that supply the brain -- have been cleaned out surgically to help prevent a stroke. The procedure, called carotid endarterectomy, is a major undertaking with risks, including actually causing a stroke or heart attack.

That's why less invasive procedures are appealing. Options include angioplasty and stenting, two techniques commonly used to treat heart disease.

Angioplasty uses a tiny balloon to reopen blocked or narrowed arteries. Stents are small, metal mesh tubes that prop arteries open after angioplasty.

For stroke prevention, angioplasty and stents are used in the carotid arteries. Blocked or narrowed carotid arteries can impair the brain's blood supply, causing a stroke.

But do angioplasty and stenting work as well as conventional surgery? Yes, say Italian researchers including Gianluca Piccoli, MD, of Santa Maria della Misericordia Hospital of Udine in Italy.

Piccoli's team studied 171 patients with carotid artery disease. Some patients had signs of decreased blood flow to the brain while others had suffered a previous stroke.

All the participants underwent angioplasty and stenting for their carotid arteries. The researchers monitored them for three years, comparing their results to those typically seen with carotid artery surgery.

Angioplasty and stenting measured up well.

Complication rates were similar to those seen with surgery. Angioplasty and stenting also equaled surgery at preventing the carotid arteries from narrowing again.

Findings Match Earlier Stroke Research

An earlier study conducted by Jay Yadav, MD, of The Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues had similar findings. That study was reported in the Oct. 7 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Carotid artery angioplasty is a safe procedure and the results are the same as surgical ones reported in literature," say the researchers. They presented their findings in Chicago at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting.

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