Stroke affects thousands of patients every year.  Learning the signs of a stroke is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the devastating event.  For some patients, a potentially lifesaving procedure may no longer be available.  A new study raises the question over just who should be given this stroke prevention procedure.

A new study looks at the appropriateness of a surgical procedure, and attempts to answer whether the procedure is a waste of cost and suffering for the patient based upon their projected life expectancy following the surgery.  The procedure in question involves scraping away fatty deposits from the inside of an artery in an attempt to prevent a stroke. Carotid endarterectomy is designed to prevent the fatty deposits form constricting the flow of blood and leading to a stroke.  The procedure can save the lives of potential stroke victims and is typically performed on patients who exhibit potential stroke warning signs like dizziness, sudden weakness, disorientation and confusion.

The study claims that as many as 20 percent of patients receiving the procedure may be too old and too sick to justify the cost and possible complications to the patient.  Researchers looked over thousands of patient records from two hundred hospitals and reported that one patient in five had other life threatening conditions that would most likely limit their life expectancy outside of the surgery.  Among those conditions, researchers found advanced liver disease, severe lung disease, or other major health concerns.  Half of the patients marked as too sick for the surgery were expected to die within five years the researchers reported.

The American Academy of Neurology has guidelines that state patients should have a life expectancy of five years or better in order to receive the artery clearing procedure.  Patients should be placed on medications in lieu of the surgery, some researchers recommend. 

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.