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Dangerous Stroke Prevention Method Could be Safe for Some People

Update Date: Jul 19, 2013 02:59 PM EDT

Suffering from a stroke can often lead to irreversible, debilitating consequences, which is why preventing strokes from occurring is extremely important. Numerous research studies have identified several risk factors that contribute to stroke. By limiting these risk factors or maintaining them, people can protect themselves to a greater extent. Now, according to a new study, a different type of stroke prevention method that is often considered risky and dangerous could actually be safe for some people.

In this new study, which is a part of the International Carotid Stenting Study (ICSS), the researchers from the University College London evaluated the effects of a procedure called stenting and whether or not it is as safe as carotid artery surgery when used to reduce one's stroke risk. The researchers found that for some patients, stenting in the neck's carotid artery could effectively reduce stroke risk. Stenting reduces stroke risk because it expands the artery and prevents the build up of fatty deposits. Build ups can lead to blockages and prevent blood flow from reaching the brain. Although stenting is less invasive than carotid artery surgery, which is a procedure done to remove the fatty deposits, stenting is believed to have greater risks.

The team found that by studying patients' brain scans, doctors could identify the risk factors and assess whether or not stenting would be a safe and effective procedure. The researchers explained that brain scans could reveal white matter lesions, which could measure one's risk of a stroke. Based on statistics, researchers know that one in every 10 patients who had more white matter lesions tend to have a three times increased risk of suffering from a stroke after stenting. Therefore, if a patient has the above average amount of white matter lesions, stenting might not be a smart treatment option. The reverse was also true.

"The results of this trial demonstrate convincingly for the first time that the severity of white matter damage shown on CT or MRI brain scans should be taken into account when patients are offered treatment for carotid artery narrowing," a professor of stroke medicine at the UCL Institute of Neurology and the chief investigator of ICSS, Martin Brown said according to Medical Xpress.  

The findings were published in Lancet Neurology. The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Stroke Association funded the research. 

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