Ultrasound to help identify stroke risk

A procedure called carotid endarterectomy can reduce the risk of stroke, but there are risks and costs involved with the surgery. “Identifying people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis who are at higher risk of stroke would help determine whether carotid endarterectomy is needed,” said study author Raffi Topakian of the Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Austria.

The surgery removes the plaque buildup in the carotid artery, which is the main artery from the heart to the brain. For the study, 435 people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis were followed for two years, who underwent ultrasound of the carotid artery and of blood vessels in the brain to determine whether two markers for high risk of stroke were present.

The markers were signs of blood clots passing into the brain, and a type of carotid plaque called echolucent plaque, which has a higher fat content than other plaque. Of the participants, 164 people had echolucent plaque, or 38 per cent, and 73 people, or 17 per cent, had at least one sign of a blood clot.

Six per cent, or 27 people, had both markers. People with the echolucent plaque in their carotid artery were more than six times more likely to have a stroke than those without the plaque.

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