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Ultrasound of Neck Arteries May Help Gauge Stroke Risk
Date:8/17/2011

high risk for stroke are also candidates for ultrasound, Topakian said. This would include people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease, he said. "This test could be a good tool to identify the right patients for surgery," Topakian said.

Of course, anyone with symptomatic carotid stenosis is a candidate for immediate surgery, Topakian said. Warning signs include transient ischemic attacks (TIAS), or mini-strokes, which cause no permanent damage but are often followed by a stroke within a few days.

The report was published in the Aug. 17 online edition of Neurology.

For the study, a research team led by Topakian followed 435 people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis for two years.

Each participant had an ultrasound to see if there were signs that a stroke might occur. These included tiny blood clots, which pass into the brain, and a type of plaque called echolucent plaque, which is fattier than other plaque and linked with an increased risk for stroke.

Among those in the study, 38 percent had the fattier-than-normal plaque, 17 percent had signs of blood clots and 27 percent had both the fattier plaque and blood clots, the researchers found.

In addition, over the two years of the study, 10 people had TIAs.

Moreover, people with the fattier plaque were more than six times more likely to have a stroke than those people without the plaque, and those with the fattier plaque and clots had a risk that was 10 times higher, Topakian's team found.

Nonetheless, some experts said that research suggests that patients with no symptoms are better off without the surgery.

Dr. Lars Marquardt,a professor of surgery at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said surgery for people with asymptomatic carotid steno sis is done too frequently.

Marquardt noted that the risks associated with the surgery are a lot higher than leaving the st
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