A study published in the journal Neurology has shown that carotid plaque inflammation, identified by PET imaging, is associated with late (five-year) recurrent stroke after adjustment for age, gender, carotid revascularization, stenosis severity, NIH Stroke Scale, and diabetes mellitus.
In the study of 181 patients, who had already suffered a minor stroke, PET scanners were performed to image the carotid arteries - the main arteries in the neck supplying the brain. Researchers from Ireland and Spain showed that the patients with more inflamed carotid arteries were more likely to have another stroke during the following five years. Current practice is to offer many of these patients who have narrowing in the carotid artery an operation (carotid endarterectomy) to prevent further stroke. This work has shown that PET scans might help doctors select the patients who are in greatest need of this operation and also may help avoid surgery in other cases.
The study was led by Professor Peter Kelly, Clinical Professor of Neurology, UCD School of Medicine, Co-Director of Stroke Service, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, and Lead Investigator for HRB SCTNI (Stroke Clinical Trials Network Ireland) and Dr Pol Camps Renom, Consultant Neurologist at St Pau Hospital, Barcelona.
Speaking about these findings, Stroke Research Fellow at HRB SCTNI and lead author on the recent Neurology paper, Dr John McCabe said: "This study has shown in principle that we can use more advanced technology, like PET scans, to identify the patients who are at greatest risk of stroke. Although more research is needed, we think that this research has the potential to change modern medical practice and may be a gateway to further development of new drugs to target inflammation in patients with stroke."