Now, a landmark study shows that using a stent to prop the carotid artery open can work just as well as surgery for people at risk of stroke.
The stenting procedure has been restricted by the federal Medicare program to patients with certain risks. Now, doctors and manufacturers are hoping the study will convince Medicare to reimburse more people who opt for the stent.
Even though the research found both approaches are comparable, neither is without risk.
Neurologist Dr. Jose Biller was one of the lead investigators at Loyola University Medical Center.
"Now we know based on this study there are two options that appear to be equivalent, although three are differences, and obviously, selection of one or the other needs to be carefully balanced based on age, gender and based on other issues," said Dr. Biller.
So, even tough stenting sounds easier, Dr. Biller stresses that in older patients the surgery option may still be safer.
The study results are in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.