Saturday, April 01, 2006

Carotid stents improve brain function

Patients with carotid artery blockage, even when they're considered asymptomatic, experience significant improvements in neurocognitive function after they undergo carotid artery stenting, investigators reported.

These astonishing findings show that patients with narrowed carotid arteries were, in fact, having neurocognitive deficits involving memory and executive functions, and that these deficits improved after the interventional radiology treatment. This study corroborates results from two previous small studies out of the U.S. and Germany.

The study indicates that patients could benefit from being treated earlier in their disease than currently thought. In spite of being classified as "asymptomatic," these patients are clearly having a dampening in brain function.

The procedure also improves brain function in symptomatic patients, but "asymptomatic" patients had the biggest gain. Though all those studied showed improvement, the younger patients did better. They have more neurocognitive reserve and had the biggest gains in neurocognitive function. The improvement was due to the increase in blood flow to the brain, as shown on MRI after the procedure.

"These patients are seeing better and thinking better, and those with least degree of disease had the greatest gain. What we found was earth-shaking," presenter Dr. Rodney D. Raabe told Reuters Health. "These findings are going to change the way we think about carotid artery disease, carotid endarterectomy and the whole classification of patients as to whether they're symptomatic or asymptomatic."

"Some patients whose functioning was so poor that they were being considered for nursing home placement, are now doing quite well living independently at home. This study shows that people, even before they have a stroke, are probably not functioning as well as they could be." patients with early dementia may actually be experiencing the results of blocked carotid arteries and that their condition can be reversed.

Phenomenal stuff. Breakthrough research. Could this help someone you know? Sure, we need a control group for definitive proof, but hey, I'm ready to get in line for the study should I need it.

Now, what was that second study? Boy, is my memory..... Oh yeah, here it is:

There is bad news in the stroke research community, today. Only one in 10 people who suffer a mini-stroke make their way to the emergency department for prompt treatment and fewer than half get treatment quickly enough, according to a troubling new study.

The research, published in today's edition of the medical journal Stroke, is of concern because those who suffer transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes) are at high risk of being felled by a full-blown stroke within hours or days. One in five TIA sufferers will have a stroke within three months -- and many of these "brain attacks" occur within 48 hours.

Study authors recommend getting to the emergency room if you have these symptoms:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, limbs, or one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or difficulty walking
  • Sudden severe headache


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