Ultrasound can identify people at high stroke risk

Thursday, Nov 26, 2015,12:28 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | Ultrasound examination can prove to be a non invasive and inexpensive way to identify patients at increased risk of future stroke who could benefit from surgery, new research has found.

Since surgical treatment to prevent stroke is only considered beneficial to some, ultrasound, a non invasive technique commonly used to study the presence of atherosclerosis disease in blood vessels, can prove useful in preventing unnecessary surgical intervention.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is an inflammatory disease affecting the arteries supplying the brain, heart, other organs and extremities with oxygen rich blood, according to the research at Umea University in Sweden. A well-established atherosclerosis disease, with accumulation of plaque narrowing the arteries, can obstruct the blood supply to the brain and other vital organs.

Atherosclerosis in the neck arteries can cause stroke. The serious condition, known as carotid stenosis, is quite common in the elderly as well as in people with risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity. Atherosclerosis disease progression can be controlled by medical treatment including cholesterol lowering drugs, and significant narrowing in symptomatic patients can be treated surgically.

We know that preventive surgical treatment of carotid stenosis is only beneficial for a small subgroup, and that most asymptomatic patients will do better with only medical therapy, said Fisnik Jashari, doctoral student at the Department of Public Health and Clinical.

By using ultrasound, we can identify the patients who are at a higher risk of stroke and thus would benefit from surgery. But preventing unnecessary surgical intervention in most cases is equally important, said Jashari. To assess the nature of atherosclerosis disease and the extent of plaque build up, the non invasive ultrasound method remains favoured over most others because it is radiation free, cheap and patient friendly.