A new study finds that two ultrasound imaging tests of the neck can help determine who is likely to have a stroke. The study went on for two years and tested 435 people who had severe asymptomatic carotid stenosis (ACS), a narrowing of the carotid arteries in the neck, which deliver blood to the brain. Of these 435 people, 10 had strokes and 20 had mini-strokes. What the study found is that people with fatty plaque in their carotid artery where much more likely, up to 6 times more, to have strokes. However, those individuals who had both fatty plaque and signs of microemboli were over 10 times more likely to have a stroke.
The first ultrasound procedure determines the quality of the plaque in the arteries; the second ultrasound, known as a Doppler ultrasound, looks for the presence of blood clots or microemboli, particles that may travel to the brain and cause stroke. The ultrasound procedures used to determine plaque build-up in the carotid artery and signs of microemboli are non-invasive and do not require any sort of surgery.
According to Lars Marquardt, M.D., “If techniques like the one presented by [study researcher] Topekian are confirmed to be able to detect patients that have a higher than normal risk of stroke, screening of patients with this technique seems necessary.”
The results of the study are very positive, demonstrating that it may now be possible to identify individuals with a high-risk of stroke. Once identified, these individuals can undergo surgery to prevent future tragedy, preventing the need for stroke rehabilitation. However, the study is only the first to find these results, and more studies are necessary before this procedure becomes common practice.