Artery treatment’s brain benefits

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 2nd, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Carotid artery stenosis [ker-ROT-ted artery steh-NOH-siss], or the narrowing of the main arteries supplying blood to the brain, is a major risk factor for stroke. If the constriction is detected early, surgeons can perform a relatively simple procedure called carotid artery stenting to sweep plaque from the walls of the carotid arteries and prevent them from collapsing. The stents, mesh-like tubes, also improve blood flow.

But according to data presented at a meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiologists, these devices also yield a surprise benefit for some patients: Their cognitive function improves. Doctors enrolled fifty-one patients in the study.

Half the participants had suffered previous strokes or reduced blood flow. Before and after minimally invasive surgery to insert a carotid stent, doctors gave a detailed cognitive evaluation to the subjects, assessing whether dementia was present and evaluating their hearing and their verbal skills. None of the participants who were first tested three months after surgery had experienced a decline in cognitive function.

Six months after the procedure, results were even more striking: Patients’ mental acuity actually improved. A pre-surgery baseline score on a memory test was nine-point-two. That average rose to ten-point-six after surgery.

On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every forty-five seconds. And the American Heart Association estimates seven-hundred-thousand people a year suffer a stroke.

The bottom line? Researchers say mental decline is a possible side effect whenever stroke occurs. The best prescription is stroke prevention through healthy living.