Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. It is the leading cause of disability and death in the United States. Now, a recent study shows that an ultrasound test may help identify individuals who have a narrowing of the carotid artery and are at high risk for stroke, even if they show no symptoms.
The symptoms include a sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg; confusion, trouble speaking or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
"One of the conundrums that we've had treating plaques in arteries is that the treatment which is plaque-removal surgery, hasn't worked with people unless they have symptoms of a stroke," says Dr. Javier Provencio of the Cleveland Clinic. "But obviously, we'd like to treat victims before they have symptoms of a stroke, not afterwards."
Dr. Provencio says: "This is a test that will hopefully will show us which patients are going to benefit from that surgery, even if they don't have symptoms."
The ultrasound test can detect signs of blood clots passing into the brain and the presence of a type of plaque in the carotid artery. According to the study, individuals with these two markers were 10 times more likely than others to have a stroke.
The non-evasive imaging test may lead to a simple way to predict future strokes in patients and develop a treatment plan, such as surgery. Because surgery has risks, the study suggests gearing the treatments toward those people who have higher risks. The new ultrasound technique is much more specific toward people with higher risk than the older techniques used previously.
Researchers say the ultrasound procedure will separate those who have a narrowing of the carotid artery into groups of patients who are most likely to suffer a stroke, and those who are not.
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