Simple Test May Pinpoint Stroke

Ultrasound of carotid artery may predict stroke

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

(RxWiki News) With the prevalence of strokes, diagnostic tools to predict risk are becoming more useful than ever. A simple ultrasound test could help identify individuals at a high risk of stroke.

If the ultrasound revealed asymptomatic carotid stenosis, a narrowing of the carotid artery in the neck, which is the main artery between the heart and brain, patients are at a higher stroke risk.

"Ask your doctor whether you are at risk for a stroke."

Dr. Raffi Topakian, a study author from the Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Austria, said a surgical procedure can remove plaque buildup in the carotid artery, though there are risks and costs involved with the surgery. There also has been debate over the best way to treat patients with the condition.

Dr. Topakian said identifying those at a higher risk of stroke would help determine if the surgery is warranted.

As part of the study, 435 patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis were followed for two years. All of the participants received ultrasounds of the carotid artery and blood vessels to the brain to investigate whether two markers for high risk of stroke were present. Those markers include blood clots passing into the brain and carotid plaque.

Of the participants, 164, or 38 percent, had plaque, while 73 individuals, or 17 percent had at least one sign of a blood clot. Of both groups, 6 percent had both markers.

During the course of the study 10 participants had strokes and 20 had transient ischemic strokes, or mini-strokes.

Researchers discovered that patients with the plaque in their carotid artery were six times more likely to have a stroke as compared to those without the plaque. Those with plaque and blood clots were 10 times more likely to have a stroke.

Dr. Topakian said that the simple ultrasound test could identify a high risk group with an annual It stroke rate of about 9 percent. The test also could pinpoint patients with a very low stroke risk.

Dr. Lars Marquardt of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany noted in an accompanying editorial that the overall risk of stroke among patients with carotid stenosis is relatively low. He said that screening patients with no symptoms could prove to be both difficult and costly.

The research was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 17, 2011
Last Updated:
August 18, 2011