Health Watch - Stroke: Surgery Dangers

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


A stroke can be debilitating, or even deadly, so scientists are studying ways to prevent and treat strokes. This week on Health Watch, we’ll discuss some of this research, as well as what you need to know about strokes.

Strokes may happen when the arteries in the neck that carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain – the carotid arteries – get blocked with fatty cholesterol deposits called plaques. If a piece of plaque breaks off and gets carried into the brain, it can cause a stroke. One way of preventing strokes is to surgically remove these plaques from the carotid arteries, but the procedure can be risky.

Dr. Ethan Halm, a stroke expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says this procedure can actually cause a patient to have a stroke. At the same time, some patients may have strokes if they don’t have the procedure to clear their arteries. Doctors have to weigh the potential risks and benefits of surgery to determine which patients need the surgery.

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February 2011


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