Features July 2008 Issue

Clogged Carotid Arteries Benefit From Statins, Stents, and/or Surgery

Patients have a variety of lifesaving treatment options when the arteries supplying blood to the brain become narrowed and the risk of stroke rises.

When the carotid arteries—the blood vessels on either side of the neck that supply blood to the brain—become narrowed and clogged by plaque buildup along the arterial wall, the risk of ischemic stroke increases. If diagnosed early enough, however, clogged carotid arteries can be treated effectively with a variety of methods; which method depends on the severity of the blockage and the overall health of the patient. Two recent studies are giving doctors and patients greater confidence as they weigh their options in treating carotid artery disease. Led by doctors at Cleveland Clinic, the Stenting and Angioplasty with Protection in Patients at High Risk for Endarterectomy (SAPPHIRE) trial found that placing small, wire-mesh stents in clogged neck arteries was just as effective—and in some cases safer—than a traditional carotid endarterectomy, in which the surgeon makes an incision in the neck and opens up the affected artery to scrape out the lesions. The results were published in the April 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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