One of the major risk factors for a stroke is carotid artery stenosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Treatment options include drugs and lifestyle changes.
Two invasive procedures are also used: Carotid endarterectomy, in which the artery is opened up and plaque is surgically removed, and angioplasty with insertion of a stent to keep the artery open. Unfortunately, there are well-known and horrific dangers associated with both of these procedures.
A new Lancet study looked at patients with symptomatic carotid artery stenosis (such as a “mini-stroke”) who had undergone carotid stenting. What they found is that for patients 70 or older, the risk of having a stroke or dying within four months of stenting was 12 percent (1 in 8!).
That’s over twice the rate for endarterectomy, which was 5.9 percent (1 in 17). Plus, most of the strokes and deaths in both groups occurred in the first 30 days following the procedure.
Even more shocking, these two procedures weren’t compared to conservative treatment—it wasn’t even a consideration. You can’t possibly determine whether these interventions are really helpful unless you know the stroke/death rates of patients who don’t undergo any type of invasive procedure.
If you or a loved one is recommended to have a one of these procedures, I suggest you do these three things:
- First, if you’re 70 or older say no to stenting.
- Second, ask your physician for scientifically documented information that indicates if you were to follow a conservative course, your risk of having a stroke or dying within four months would be greater than 1 in 17, as it is for endarterectomy, or 1 in 8, the stat for stenting.
- Finally, before succumbing to any procedure, get a second opinion.
It’s also important to adopt good preventive measures, including eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, getting regular exercise, and taking the right nutritional supplements. For more, see Four Ways to Prevent a Stroke.
Now it’s your turn: Have you or someone you know had a doctor recommend these procedures?
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