A study that compared two ways used to clear fatty plaque from carotid arteries was presented on Friday at a meeting in San Antonio that discussed stroke medicine, according to a feature on The Wall Street Journal.
The ten-year study, called CREST, was federally-funded. It indicated that the use of stents, which is a less invasive option when compared to surgery, is just as effective as the latter “in terms of safety and effectiveness.” The procedure, which necessitates a shorter stay in the hospital, is said to be restricted by the federal Medicare program “to patients with previous stroke symptoms and who are at high surgical risk”.
The article wonders whether the results of this study may become the catalyst for a change in this prevalent ruling and pave the way to making the stenting procedure a reimbursable option for a wider variety of patients and cases.
One of the investigators involved in the study, L. Nelson Hopkins (chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Buffalo), said that “If you properly train to do this procedure, the two procedures are equal.”
Stents look like small, tubular scaffolding. In a previous post, it was mentioned that stents were inserted to reopen the clogged arteries of former President Bill Clinton.
The study looked into the cases of more than 2,500 patients, and of this population about half did not suffer any symptoms; they were also said to have benefited equally from stents and surgery. Every year, though, there are only 30,000 procedures involving carotid-stent placement over 100,000 carotid operations.