Health Watch - Stroke: Surgery vs. Stent

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.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about preventing strokes. Previously, we discussed a surgical procedure for preventing strokes and some of the risks associated with it. There’s another procedure that’s an alternative to surgery, but is it any better?

Instead of surgically clearing plaque from the arteries in the neck that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain, doctors can also insert a mesh tube called a stent to keep the artery open. This procedure is less invasive, leaves less of a scar and requires a shorter hospital stay. But there’s less known about its long-term risks and benefits compared to surgery.

Dr. Ethan Halm, a stroke expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the jury is still out on the role of stents. Surgery appears to be more effective for older patients, and patients who don’t yet have symptoms from blocked arteries have less benefit from either surgery or stents. Patients should talk to their doctors about surgical options, as well as medical and lifestyle interventions.       

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February 2011


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