For years, doctors have debated the best way to prevent strokes in patients with blocked arteries in the neck. Friday, a landmark study finds a less invasive procedure can work just as well as surgery, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.
"We were able to treat the blockage and do it extremely safely regardless of whether we use the standard surgical technique or the somewhat newer stenting technique," said Dr. Gary Roubin of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
In 2,500 patients at over 100 hospitals, researchers used two different ways of opening up blockages in the carotid arteries, the main source of blood for the brain. A small cut can be made in the artery so plaque can be scooped out by a surgeon. Alternatively, a balloon can be inserted and a stent placed to keep the artery open.
"The length of stay in hospital is approximately the same, but perhaps a little shorter with stenting, so theoretically stenting should be a less costly procedure," Roubin said.
The study found that serious complications a month later were relatively low.
"The older patients tended to benefit more from the surgical procedure," said Dr. Andrew Eisenhauer, ans assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "Younger patients tended to benefit more from the interventional procedure, the stenting."
Stenting opened Guenter Mueller's carotid artery which was more than 90 percent blocked.
"What's the outlook? Maybe another 100 years," Guenter said laughing.
Experts caution that not every patient with a blocked carotid artery needs a procedure. Medications like statins can also lower the risk of stroke.