TUESDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- To prevent stroke in certain high-risk patients -- those with a blocked neck artery who have already had a so-called "mini-stroke" -- drug treatment appears as effective and far less risky than bypass surgery, researchers find.
Their study evaluated nearly 200 patients, about half of whom had carotid artery bypass surgery. In the 30 days after surgery, patients had a 14 percent risk of having a stroke, compared with a 2 percent risk among those treated medically, the study found.
"We were trying to figure out a way of taking people who were at high risk of having stroke and prevent that from happening," said lead researcher Dr. William Powers, chairman of adult neurology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, at Chapel Hill.
"The unfortunate part is that we didn't do that," Powers said. "If you made it through the surgery, your risk of having a stroke was 6 percent, but, unfortunately, the risk of having a stroke from surgery was 15 percent," he said. "This procedure should not be used for this propose."
Powers added that despite this failure, they are still looking for a safer way to get blood to the brain in patients who have a completely blocked carotid artery, the large blood vessel in the neck. "We are hoping to take what we learned and take the same type of patients and try a catheter stent-based approach," he said.
The study appears in the Nov. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The surgical procedure is called extracranial-intracranial arterial bypass surgery. It involves drilling a hole in the head and attaching a blood vessel from the scalp to one of the blood vessels of the brain, bypassing the blockage in the neck, Powers explained.
In the trial, called the Carotid Occlusion Surgery Study, Powers' team randomly assigned 195 patients to carotid bypass surg
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