Carotid Artery Stents Safe for Grandpa

Carotid artery stenting found effective in safe in elderly patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As patients are living longer, the need to assess heart treatments for the elderly has increased. Investigators have found that placing a stent in the neck's carotid artery of patients over the age of 70 is both safe and effective.

Though it comes with slightly elevated cardiovascular risk, the risk remains low in proportion to the possible benefit of a carotid artery stent in older patients.

"Talk to a cardiologist about risks associated with stents."

Dr. Nicholas J. Ruggiero, II, director of Structural Heart Disease and Non-Coronary Interventions at Jefferson Heart Institute, assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College and lead author of the study, said that the findings are significant.  The researchers are encouraged that the potentially life-saving procedure can be safely extended to even the oldest patients.

Investigators reviewed data on 5,005 high-risk patients that received a carotid artery stent through the National Cardiovascular Data Registry CARE registry. Through the registry researchers reviewed patient demographics, the use of angioplasty to open clogged arteries, stents and embolic protection devices. They also examined medications, neurological status and adverse event rates, particularly those related to the heart.

Patients were divided into four age groups, including 70 through 74, 75 to 79, 80 through 84, and older than 85. They found that the rate of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular deaths did not exceed 4.5 percent except in patients over the age of 85.

The heart risk increased with a patient's age, but even at 6 percent among patients over the age of 85, researchers found that the risk remained extremely low, determining that the procedure was still both safe and effective for older patients. They also discovered an increasing number of adverse neurological events as age increased.

Previous research had suggested a risk of 7 percent of stroke, heart attack and heart-related deaths among elderly patients following placement of a carotid artery stent.

The research was recently presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific sessions. Research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 29, 2012
Last Updated:
March 29, 2012