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HEALTH REPORT - Carotid Stent - 2004-05-11

Broadcast: May 12, 2004

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Strokes can take place when fatty material blocks the flow of blood through arteries in the body. Soon, brain cells die from the lack of blood. About one-hundred-fifty-thousand people die of strokes each year in the United States alone. Stroke is the third leading cause of death. Many more suffer permanent brain damage.

Blocked carotid arteries in the neck are a major cause of strokes. The traditional treatment is an operation. Doctors open and clean the arteries. Another treatment used in some countries now is the Cordis Carotid Stent. Doctors use a small device that holds the artery open.

Patients can stay awake while doctors place the carotid stent inside an artery. They also can recover faster than from the traditional surgery. Stents have similar use for heart patients.

In Washington, the Food and Drug Administration had a committee of experts consider the carotid stent for use in the United States. In April, the committee advised the F.D.A. to approve the system, with some conditions. The system would be meant for high-risk patients. These are people whose age or health makes the traditional operation too dangerous.

The vote was close. Six of the experts supported the approval. Five opposed it. The agency will now consider a final decision.

To use the stent, doctors make a small cut between the stomach and the top of the leg. They place a small tube called a catheter into the carotid artery. Then they pass the catheter up to the neck. At the end of the catheter is the stent.

The doctors expand the stent to enlarge and clean the carotid artery. Another device protects the brain from any plaque material loosened by the cleaning process. The doctors then remove the catheter. But the stent remains in place to hold the artery open.

Doctor Jay Yadav (YA-dav) of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio led a study to compare the stent to the traditional operation. A division of the Cordis Corporation that makes the system paid for the study. Three-hundred-ten people were treated. About half of them had the traditional operation. The others received stents.

Doctor Yadav said that after one year, the stent patients did as well, and in many ways better, than those who had the operation.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.