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 for carotid artery stenosis include drugs and lifestyle changes to target atherosclerosis. Two invasive procedures are also used to treat carotid artery stenosis and to prevent a stroke: Carotid endarterectomy, in which the artery is opened up and plaque is surgically removed, and the angioplasty procedure, in which a stent is inserted to keep the artery open.
Unfortunately, there are well-known and horrific dangers associated with both carotid endarterectomy and angioplasty. Furthermore, research suggests that these dangerous, invasive procedures don’t necessarily prevent a stroke. That’s why I don’t think they should be used to treat carotid artery stenosis and/or to prevent a stroke.
Carotid Endarterectomy and Angioplasty Don’t Necessarily Prevent a Stroke
In a study published in the Lancet, researchers looked at data on 3,433 patients with symptomatic carotid artery stenosis (such as a “mini-stroke”) who had undergone carotid endarterectomy or the angioplasty procedure. They found that for patients who were 70 or older, the risk of having a stroke or dying within four months of stenting was 12 percent (1 in 8!)—over twice the rate for endarterectomy, which was 5.9 percent (1 in 17). And most of the strokes and deaths in both groups occurred in the first 30 days following the procedure.
This is outrageous. The harm inflicted on these patients was not caused by their disease, it was caused by their treatment! We’ve known for years that carotid artery intervention outcomes are worse in this age group. So why perform them on older patients? Because they’re ripe for the picking. Carotid artery stenosis dramatically increases with age, so the bulk of these procedures are done in older patients.
Conservative Treatment Was Completely Ignored
Even more shocking, these two procedures weren’t compared to conservative treatment—it wasn’t even a consideration. You can’t possibly determine whether carotid endarterectomy or angioplasty are really effective ways to treat carotid artery stenosis and/or prevent a stroke unless you know the stroke/death rates of patients who don’t undergo any type of invasive procedure.
I’ve noticed an increasing tendency over the years for clinical trials to simply pit one drug or intervention against another and exclude a control group. For example, they’ll test beta blockers against ACE inhibitors for blood pressure control, or they’ll evaluate coronary bypass versus angioplasty. But they don’t compare their effectiveness or dangers with a group that receives no treatment other than lifestyle changes or, in the case of surgeries, appropriate medications. They just “presume” that drugs and high-tech procedures are superior.
Granted, the stroke rate in our country is high. However, I would submit that the stroke/death rate is actually lower in patients treated with lifestyle changes and medication than in those who undergo either of these procedures, especially in patients who are elderly or asymptomatic. And incredibly, 70–80 percent of all carotid endarterectomies and 70–90 percent of carotid stentings are done on patients who have no symptoms at all!
Safe, Effective Ways to Prevent a Stroke
So, what are your options? The leading risk factor for stroke is hypertension, followed by atherosclerosis, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, and smoking. The most important preventive measure is to do whatever it takes to get a handle on these conditions.
Suggested supplements include fish oil, which stabilizes vulnerable, inflamed plaques in the carotid arteries; nattokinase, an enzyme that decreases clotting and improves blood viscosity; vitamin D, as deficiencies of this vitamin increase stroke risk; antioxidants; and high-dose folic acid and other B-complex vitamins.
At Whitaker Wellness, we also treat patients who have carotid artery stenosis with EDTA chelation, an intravenous therapy that removes toxic heavy metals from the blood and enhances arterial health. In a study of patients who had sonograms before and after 30 EDTA infusions, there was a 20 percent average decrease in carotid artery blockages. One of our patients who came in with an 80 percent blockage was treated with diet, exercise, supplements, and chelation, and her blockage regressed to 40 percent on repeat testing!
The Bottom Line
If you or a loved one is recommended to have a carotid endarterectomy or angioplasty, I suggest you do the following:
- First, if you’re 70 or older, say no to the angioplasty procedure.
- 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 carotid endarterectomy, or 1 in 8, the stat for the angioplasty procedure. Your request is a simple, honest one. But don’t expect to get a simple, honest answer. You will probably be told that by refusing therapy, you’re asking for a stroke or worse—and that he “believes” the procedure is your best chance. This is at best dishonest and at worst debilitating and deadly. We’ve seen thousands of patients over the years who were told they would have a heart attack or stroke, or even die, if they didn’t submit to a “necessary” treatment. Yet, they are still here years later, alive and well—despite having chosen a “dangerous” conservative approach.
- Third, before succumbing to any procedure, get a second opinion.
It’s also important to adopt safe, natural, and proven ways to prevent a stroke, which include eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and taking a good daily multivitamin with high doses of antioxidants and B-complex vitamins, 2,000–5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, 6,000 mg of fish oil per day, and 100 mg of nattokinase twice a day.
To find a physician who offers EDTA chelation in your area, visit acam.org. To schedule treatment or a second opinion at Whitaker Wellness, call 1-866-642-1018.
Now it’s your turn: Have you or someone you know had a doctor recommend a carotid endarterectomy or the angioplasty procedure to prevent a stroke?